Monday, September 19, 2016

Ender's Game: Summer Reading

During the summer prior to the 10th grade year, students are sent home a letter welcoming them to the 10th grade honors English program and providing them details with how to annotate a text.  The students are asked to read and annotate Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card over the summer and be prepared to discuss this text and be tested on it as soon as the school year starts.

As a teacher I LOVE summer reading.  Here's why: any reading helps students immensely in all walks of life, annotating helps them to retain more the learning from the previous year and this allows me to gather data quickly from students at the start of the year to see what they already are rock stars at and where there are holes in their learning.

Inevitably, there are students who transfer into my class right as school starts and need time to complete the reading, so I have designed a few activities to accommodate for these students and to still offer the students who have completed the reading an opportunity to further their understanding of the text.  At the same time, I do want to test students and see what they are coming in with, so I try not to give too much direct instruction.  The goal is to see where they are starting at.
I am starting the unit this year by addressing some of the challenges that I noted with the annotations that students completed over the summer.  We are spending the first day reviewing the annotation rubric closely, looking at modeled annotations for each section and then setting the students loose to complete "A" annotations as samples in small groups.  Here are some of the samples that I use with students:
Character Section of Rubric

Character Sample Annotations
Character Sample Annotation

Diction Section of the Rubric
Diction Sample Annotation
Diction Sample Annotations

Theme Section of Rubric

Theme Sample Annotation

Theme Sample Annotations
We also review some other types of annotations that will be required in the 10th grade year:
Plot Sample Annotation

Literary Device Sample Annotation

After looking over samples, students are asked to annotate a small section of text in a group, modeling "A" level annotations.
Here are some student-work samples from this endeavor:
This Was Just Too Cute Not to Share...

Annotation Poster Example

Annotation Poster Example

Annotation Poster Example

The next day, students are asked to take notes on the skill of summarizing and create a summary for a section of the text.  There is special focus given to aspects of summary that students struggled with on the pretest for this unit.  I talk about how to annotate for summary and then show the students a sample summary with all of the components needed.  The students assess some summaries and then are set off in pairs to work on their own summary.
As a follow up on the summary activity, I had students highlight and give feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their peers (who were assigned to the same chapter).  This seemed to be very effective and I am hoping it will translate well as they self-assess and prepare for the post-test.  Here is a sample of a highlighted summary:
Summary with Peer Review

A similar process is followed for theme.  Students take notes on theme (targeting struggles demonstrated on the pretest), they are shown sample annotations for theme and then are set off to analyze the development of a theme through Ender's Game in a small group.
Directions for Partner/Theme Map Work

In order to individually demonstrate an understanding of theme, students complete a theme map.  I show the students a sample theme map from the pre-test text as a sample for them to base their work off of:
Sample Theme Map
In order to review the concept of characterization, we take extensive notes (which are interactive) on character terms.  As students take notes, they add examples from Ender's Game in order to make the concepts more concrete.  After taking notes, questions in relation to character are posted throughout the room and students take part in a "Gallery Walk" discussion of these questions.  They are divided into groups (equal to the number of questions).  As a group, they discuss and come to consensus as to the answers.  They work to use their annotations from the summer to support the answers that they come to.  They write the answers on the poster.  Here are some sample posters:

The next day, they rotate around the room - adding on the the answers/evidence posted by their peers and engaging in a discussion with the groups who have previously commented.  On the third day, students present their original posters, making certain to address any newly formulated ideas (based off the "discussion") and any questions that may have been posed.

In order to prepare for the post-assessment for this unit, students take a practice test over a chapter in Ender's Game which is reviewed in class the following day as a means for students to review the main concepts being tested in the unit.  Students also review the pre-test from the beginning of the unit and use the information they have learned throughout this unit to identify strengths and weaknesses of the work presented on the pre-test. 
The final activity for this unit involves a compare and contrast of the novel and the movie, but with a slightly more academic twist (I have found that this twist really encourages students to look not only at movies critically, but at texts more critically  as well).
We begin by a day of non-fiction reading and notes on cinematic devices - the students read a short article called Mise-en-Scene and the Four Ps.  This article gives them a very brief set of lenses through which to critically watch a movie and understand the decisions made by the director.  The notes involve images/short videos highlighting each device and them paraphrasing the device in their own words and finding their own examples from films they are familiar with (they really like this part).  I also show them examples from modern movies of each of these techniques in action.  Before watching Life of Pi, we watch an example of what Mise-en-Scene analysis sounds like with the film Wall-E:
Link to Wall-E ExampleHere is another example that I use from time to time.  It shows the director taking a passage from a text and transforming it into a movie scene.
Link to Goodfellas ExampleNext we watch a short scene in the movie - students are required to take notes throughout the movie about the cinematic decisions of the director.  After the first scene I stop the film and we discuss the cinematic elements that we noticed.  After this the students generally feel pretty confident and they watch and take notes.  I have found that thinking critically about a film is something that these students have never done before and they are actually really good at it.  It then becomes a very transferable skill to critical thinking about the decisions of an author later on.

After watching the film students are asked to analyze the differences between the approach of the director and the author of the same character or scene.  They only have to look at one, but they are expected to include in-depth analysis of the devices used by each and commentary about these decisions - why would the director make this decision while the author made a different decision? Students are required to reference literary and cinematic devices.  Giving them some guidelines about how to watch a movie critically helps to avoid overly simplistic comparisons that do not involve much analysis.  They finish their analysis up as homework and turn in the analysis and their annotated texts.

This also serves as excellent practice for their first quarter independent reading assignment where they are asked to read a novel that has been turned into a movie and analyze the difference between the approach of the author and the director towards the development of a specific character.
Link to Post About Independent Reading for Quarter 1

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