Category Archives: student choice

Semester End Deadlines

The 15 week grades revealed that many of my 9th graders are having time management challenges. The purpose of this post is to provide clear expectations for all semester end projects and deadlines for all of my World History classes.

50 pts The Plot Against America Reading Log Dec. 7
100 pts The Plot Against America Character Time Line Dec. 7
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Poem Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Art Piece Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
100 pts Holocaust Survivor Essay-Speech Dec. 14
50 pts Video Notes Dec. 14
600 points for your final grade. Late work will not be accepted

Students in my class started reading The Plot Against America on Monday, October 26th. For the first week, students listened to the audio book as they read. After five days, I took the training wheels off and asked students to start keeping a daily log of what page numbers they read and to summarize what happened in a reading log.

Char Evo Timeline.jpg

A Character Evolution Timeline from Olson, Scarcella & Matuchniak (2015) requires a reader to review the sequence of events that occur in a text and to plot it out graphically, much like a storyboard. However, in the graphic display, the reader can chart a character’s changing emotions by selecting: (1) a facial expression to reveal the character’s emotions during key events; (2) a quote that illustrates why or how the character experiences this emotion; and (3) a symbol to characterize that emotion. Beneath the quote, the reader needs to write an interpretation of the impact of the event on the character in his or her own words. This exercise in character analysis and forming interpretations helps students detect motivation and bias in historical texts. Students must complete a character log on one of the characters from The Plot Against America with at least 10 events. The timeline (at least 10 events) and the reading log (with at least 20 entries) are due on December 72015 at 3:00 pm.

All my World History students will complete their study of the Holocaust by creating entries that commemorate a Holocaust survivor’s eyewitness testimony. Students must turn in annotated notes for the testimony that inspires each poem, essay, and art piece they complete. Some students may find it helpful to use Video Notes to organize their thoughts on each testimony.

PROMPT: As you listen to the oral testimony of a Holocaust survivor or rescuer, you may sense a change in tone that makes you stop and listen again. Something about the way the person speaks tells you that this memory matters in a special way. For the survivor or rescuer, this memory needs telling forward.

All entries and supporting materials are due by 3:00 pm on Monday, December 14th. Poem and Essay entries must be typed and in 12 point Times New Roman Font, single-spaced. Art and poetry entries must include a 100-word artist’s statement containing: the title of the work; the name of the survivor to whose testimony this work is a response, and a statement of how this work addresses the prompt. The name and class period of the person creating the entry should NOT APPEAR on the front of the entry. Keep all identifying information on the back of the entry.

View the contest’s complete rules here:

All entries will be blind judged by a panel of Kennedy teachers who will choose the top three entries that will be entered in Chapman University’s 17th Annual Holocaust Art and Writing Contest. Students will be eligible to win the first prize of $500 and the second prize of $250 in each category in the high school competition. The first place winner in each category, recipient’s parent/guardian and teacher are all invited to participate in an expense-paid study trip June 21-25, 2014, to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other sites in Washington D.C.

Websites for Survivor Testimonies

To understand the level of competition in this contest, please review these examples of Previous Winners. Please note that Dr. Petri has been known to generously award bonus points to students who turn in their projects ahead of schedule. Manage your time wisely.

Make Writing

Inspired by Angela Stockman’s new book Make Writing, today my students brainstormed ways they could demonstrate their knowledge of the historical novel The Plot Against America without writing to a prompt that I created for them.

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Pictures are posted below and my review on Angela’s new book will be published in a couple of days.

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Angela’s book turns conventional writing strategies and teaching upside down. She spills you out of your chair, shreds your lined paper, and launches you and your writers workshop into the maker space! Who even knew this was possible?

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Stockman provides five right-now writing strategies that reinvent instruction and inspire both young and adult writers to express ideas with tools and in ways that have rarely, if ever, been considered.

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Many schools are converting classrooms to maker spaces–vibrant places where students demonstrate learning by constructing things, using newly-acquired skills and applying newly-learned concepts.

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With inspired creativity and ingenuity, Stockman shows you how to bring modern maker moves into your writers workshop, giving birth to new environment  that rockets writers to places that were previously unimaginable.

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We will see how well my students’ projects on the Philip Roth novel turn out.

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History Book vs Video Lecture

I operate flipped classroom where students watch video lectures with Zaption questions embedded in them for homework, then we read, practice writing and note-taking drills and complete projects in class. After three years of this work I developed two hypotheses: 1) Students with higher reading scores prefer reading the book to viewing the video lectures; and 2) Students with lower reading scores prefer viewing the video lectures to reading the book.

This week, I asked two samples of students to describe which learning format they preferred. The results soundly debunked my assumptions. While both groups of students preferred the video lectures to the textbook, 36% of students with lower reading levels preferred taking notes from the book rather than viewing video lectures.

Book v VL

Students who favored the video lecture to the book made comments like:

  • I think I am learning more from the videos because they give off more information, they clarify what the topic is about, and I can rewind the video in case I didn’t get that last piece of information.
  • Personally, the video lectures help a lot more than taking notes on the book. I can spend more time on the video, the book is more flat. In the video, main points are emphasized. It’s slightly harder to pick out key points from the book. My brain works better when it comes to listening because when it comes to reading, my eyes tend to skim and I can miss key information.
  • I like the video lecture better because it tells us what to write. You can take your time and you can rewind the video. In the book, it takes a long time looking for what information you are going to write in your notes. When I open the book it’s just like no and it’s not interesting. The book doesn’t capture my attention.

Students who preferred the book to the video lectures made comments like:

  • I think the book helps me better because you can go back and easily find something you missed, you can easily flip through pages to find something, and it is less distracting.
  • Taking notes from the book helps you go at your own pace. You can read as fast or as slow as you want. The book is easier to go back to a sentence or paragraph than the video. The book makes it more simple because you can study and annotate in a way that you will understand.
  • I work better with books, they have less complications. I am a hands-on learner, books get to the point. Video-lectures can have complications. WiFi can go down, you run out of data, problems can happen. Books are always there to be picked up and read.

These results seem to validate the flipped classroom approach. When students view video lectures which preview vocabulary terms, names and events first, they are building background knowledge. Then, when students encounter these terms, names, and events in their reading, they have familiarity with them and it is easier for the new knowledge to “stick.” Regardless of which learning method students prefer when these two methods are paired, the video acts as an anticipation guide priming the pump in a student’s memory and reinforcing the stickiness of the information in the reading. My big takeaway? Remember to listen to your students. It turns out they also are your customers.