What do you call a digression before you even begin? Anyway, you should go read Sara’s comment on my “learning styles” post from a couple of days ago. Then you’ll be in on the gag from here on out if I make any references to pudding.
OK. This whole teaching eighth grade thing is sort of throwing me for a loop, but I think I’m starting to find a groove. I’m trying to write new, 8th grade level, academic words exercises; I only used 20 out of more than 50 on each list I got from the academic words guy for the seventh grade lists, so there’s plenty left for eighth grade. I’m digging out my Rorschach blots for “Flowers for Algernon,” and trying to figure out how to get a dose of history of the English language in without boring us all to death. My reading of the standards is that it should be from more of a word origin/vocabulary sort of angle, but maybe that’s just me. And I’m getting ready to start a novel I have never taught before, Nothing But the Truth.
I have high hopes for this one. Seven years ago, when I last had eighth grade classes, we were ordering the anthologies we still use (well, some of us), and as part of the deal, we got to pick a bunch of novels to go with. (Why we couldn’t spend ALL that money on a fine variety of class novels, instead of a bunch of 10 pound, 75 dollah anthologies we use two percent of was never really explained to me.) Since I had some eighth grade classes at the time, I got an eighth grade vote too. I had just read NBTT, and lobbied hard for it. I met with some resistance at first, from people who thought the reading level wasn’t high enough (5+ or so), but I was more interested in the ancillary activities (I’ve always wanted to use that word), and all the shtuff I could connect to it: free speech, truth and point of view, selective reporting, propaganda, self interest, scapegoats and symbols, and so on. Also, I liked the no narrator approach, with the documents and characters speaking for themselves. History doesn’t have a narrator, it has multitudes; we have to figure out what happened from what people said and wrote down. I figured I could work all that in and more…Then I went back to seventh grade for the next seven years. D’oh.
Now here’s my chance to bust a move or two. And I just had this idea…
I’m going to try to have my kids “Tweet” and “Facebook” their way through the book. Sort of reporting it live. I’m going to meter the book out, in class, like I do with The Outsiders in seventh grade; they won’t get to read ahead, and with any luck, we can sort of make the story unfold in real time, and react to it as we go. I thought about checking out the laptop carts (we have a class set of wireless laptops), and really doing it up, but the thought of dealing with IST, and hogging the laptops for a month just didn’t give me a warm feeling inside, so the kids’ notebooks will have to suffice.
I’m thinking, that we’ll stop at key places to “tweet” or “Facebook” about the characters and events. I’ll direct them with some, as they say, open ended prompts. I’m hoping that there will be several different perspectives and each will see the “truth” in a slightly different way.
More on this as I think of it. You’re pretty much going to watch this happen in real time.
The first question for discussion tomorrow before we begin reading:
How can two people see the same incident (or even both be a part of it), and each tell a different story about it, without really lying?