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Finding joy in the work

These first weeks of the new semester have really flown by. A new crew of senior English students have begun the last English course of their High School career. We have a lot to do. I started out the semester with an essay study and then asked the students to write their essays using the mentor texts they had read as their anchors. I spent the last few days reading through them, and largely, I am pleased with the first bits of writing I am seeing. Their personalities have come through in their words, and I am excited to see them develop more as readers and writers this term.

We followed these essays by talking about close reading and looking at two texts. First was the Paper Menagerie, and the second was Canyon, a poem by Phil Kaye. Both texts focus on the character's struggle with identity as someone stuck between two different cultures and the judgments of others. The discussions that came from both texts were really interesting as students started to notice the similarities between them.

After this first week and a half of heavier writing, I had a couple of students come up and ask when we planned to start doing some Multimodal work. My initial plan had us do a quick critical analytical essay before this little winter break, but who am I to get in the way of Multimodal composition? So we shifted a bit and I took what will be their critical question to write on and changed it up a bit to make it a prompt for Multimodal creation. So the prompt to spark thinking read:

Craft a multimodal composition that explores the conflict one faces when uncertain about their identity.

It was interesting largely because this was the first time I really had students respond to an idea they had to represent more than just recreating something they found meaningful from the texts we studied. To say that it was difficult at first for these kids to wrap their minds around the task would be an understatement, but slowly, they started to show off these little glimmers of understanding. The embers of brilliance started to ignite and then we were off.

Early Stages

Finished Products

Show me the smudges

My friend Paul W. Hankins was probably not aware how much his little phrase in a PD session would impact me, but it has changed my practice as I ask students now to "show me the smudges" and provide a little background on their decisions when crafting any of the work we do. A simple conversation will suffice but I want to know their thinking, I want to explore their choices, and this phrase gives us a perfect entry point.

I love all of the submissions that come in for different reasons but I really love digital compositions and especially films. There is something about video work that I find to be such an incredible medium for communication and this video was a really cool way to respond to the prompt.

We started the term going full steam ahead, and I feel like I almost missed out on the things I love most. In the midst of this beautiful work, I got word that kids were receiving their standardized test scores from the earlier semester, and some were so deflated by the news. I love the opportunities we have to learn and grow together and do work that kids will remember. These tests always try to put kids in boxes. I love that multimodal composition gives kids a chance to set the boxes on fire.

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