Tuesday, November 17, 2015


(After a three year hiatus, I’m back. No more than five minutes a day, just a quick sample of what’s going right in Room 9. I may do a longer reflective post about why I’m picking this back up later, but now, I’m just trying to redevelop the habit.)

Yesterday students submitted literary essays in my English 9 classes. It’s been an arduous process: four weeks of rereading, trying to think of something smart to say, supporting it with evidence, and THEN organizing it in a way that makes sense. And revising. And revising, And editing. I think it’s easy to forget how difficult all of this thinking work is--and that’s before we try to put words on the page in a cohesive manner.

Literary analysis feels like school writing (which I’m working on improving, by the way, but I’m not there yet). This is the kind of writing that students are not going to choose to read on their own. However, I wanted them to see the deep ideas they and their peers had come up with and celebrate the growth they made in their writing. So we did a symphony share. I asked each student to choose his/her favorite sentence from his/her essay (for craft or thinking or whatever they wanted), and we spent five minutes sharing them aloud in class before moving on to the next unit.

Here is a sampling of what I heard:

“We may try to hide it, but in the end we all have a little bit of Zaroff in us.” (From an essay about “The Most Dangerous Game”)
“Overcoming peer pressure can be difficult and people may give you a hard time about it, but would you rather feel the pride of helping someone out or feel the guilt of being responsible for a walking dead man?” (from an essay about “A Kind of Murder”)
“The beauty we find in others is blocked by what we want others to see in ourselves.” (From an essay about “The Scarlet Ibis”)

As we went around the room and students listened to one another, I was so impressed with the thinking their work showed. They were quiet, they saw their work had depth, and they drew out important reminders for us all to carry out into the world. Teenagers can be wise when we give them a chance.

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