Get your students engaged with poetry collections with this hands-on hexagon activity!

There are ALWAYS new activities, new angles from which to approach content. Hexagons looks likely to be both deeply engaging AND to develop analysis skills which can be hard to actually teach in a direct, passive (lecture/notes/discussion) way.


Today’s post is brought to you by guest author Tia Miller. Tia teaches AP Literature, AP Language, AP Seminar, and Dual Credit English at Chapmanville Regional High School in southern West Virginia.  She is currently working on her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from Marshall University.

This past semester, inspired by Melissa Smith and other awesome teachers in my PLN and encouraged by some extra money to spend on books for my classroom, I decided to teach my first poetry collection. Mind you, the very notion of reading a poetry collection, personally, was a rather exceptional idea for me, much less the attempt to teach one, but I took the leap anyway and found an exciting new addition for my curriculum.

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Our Friends, Our Woven Selves

Hoda Zarbaf’s art was quite interesting.

I just read on Instagram that she has recently passed away and was struck by this sculpture, so I looked her up and spent a little bit of time looking at her art pieces.

Most of the work is more intense than this one, though they are definitely worth seeing, and the mixed media creations often have a lot of joy in them. (And a lot of other emotions.)

The integration of fabric and other harder material into bodies’ forms strikes a chord with me. I have two knit/crocheted “foobs” that I sometimes wear when I want to look balanced and each foob was made by a different dear friend.

(My inclination right now is that I don’t really want to care if being unabashedly one-boobed is too weird for public, but I do care about making people feel uncomfortable. That has led me to thinking about how much we humans respond to minor lapses/differences in bilateral symmetry much less signifant deformities. But those are musings for another time.)

I’ve been thinking about how powerful it is to have a prosthesis so close to my heart that embodies the woven connections I feel with all those humans out in the world that I’ve gotten to interact with, to love a little.

And I have been thinking about how lovely it is to have my broken parts patched by the hands of my friends.

Hoda Zarbaf, particularly this sculpture, evokes aspects of the feelings I have when thinking about our ersatz and yet somehow beautiful amalgamated selves.

Latest dispatches from the reading wars

I feel as though I am doing the hokey pokey. I will teach my first university elementary literacy classes this spring and have only entered into exploring our “literacy wars” in the past two-three months. Every time I think I have a grasp on what is “right”, my understandings shift again.
Ultimately, I still feel that early elementary teachers MUST be competent at phonics instruction AND at creating literacy- and context-rich learning environments that are culturally-sustaining (to use Earnest Morrell’s term). Upper elementary and beyond need to be able to identify gaps in functional literacy AND be culturally-responsive.
But I’m still reading, viewing, thinking, and considering.

Filling the pail

Sarah Mitchell, the New South Wales education minister has announced the roll-out of a phonics screening check across NSW public schools in a robust article in theSydney Morning Herald with the headline, “The reading wars are over – and phonics has won.” Great News. The phonics check is no panacea – and nobody is suggesting that it is – but we have found it very useful at my place and the findings of the pilot conducted in NSW this year are encouraging.

Mitchell makes the following point that made me wince as I imagined a few ‘balanced literacy’ advocates opening up their morning paper:

“Vice-chancellors need to take a broom to these faculties and clear out the academics who reject evidence-based best practice. A faculty of medicine would not allow anti-vaxxers to teach medical students. Faculties of education should not allow phonics sceptics to teach primary teaching students.”


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