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On the Shoulders of Giants

Ariel Sacks

June 29, 2014

Teaching Poetry, Whole-Novels Style: Creating An Immersion Experience For Students

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CONCEPT: Just like in whole novel studies, experience is of primary importance in the study of poetry. Too often, students receive the message in their English classes that poetry exists to be analyzed.  They learn terms, strategies and complicated acronyms to remember them--all in the service of solving a “poem-problem” with, what they understand is supposed to be a clear answer.  As a reader, scholar and writer of poetry, I can say with confidence that poems are not built for a formulated analysis and rarely come with clear answers!  I think the vast majority of English teachers would agree with me on this; yet sometimes, in effort to reach standards and keep kids on track, common classroom methods still push students into the understanding that we read poetry to analyze and arrive at a specific outcome.    

If not analysis or a specific outcome, then what characterizes the experience of poetry?

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Ariel Sacks

June 2, 2014

2014 Bammy Awards and What It Means to Be Recognized

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Yesterday, CTQ colleague Renee Moore tweeted a congratulations message to the 2014 Bammy Award Finalists, and tagged me in it, along with several of my favorite teacher-writers, Jose Vilson, Larry Ferlazzo, and Stephen Lazar... and that's when I saw that I, in fact, have been selected as a finalist for a Bammy Award for Middle School Educator of the year!

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Ariel Sacks

May 30, 2014

Masters of Our Own Ships

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In my previous post, I wrote about a valuable practice in reading intruction: reading alongside the students during independent reading.  Often an in-the-moment decision, reading alongside students can be used when the mood in the classroom is just perfect and joining in the reading makes more sense than disturbing students' reading, and other times when the mood is frenetic, and modelling silent reading is more helpful to students than any other measure. 

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Ariel Sacks

May 28, 2014

Under-Rated Teaching Strategy: Read Next To Them!

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It was fifth period, sometime last week (it's late May), and students should have been reading quietly.  Generally, I would be using this time to have conversations with individual students about their reading, check over their reading notes and give some quick feedback, or read aloud with a small group.  But on that day, I hadn't gotten into a groove with any of this. That was because at one table, a group of students had gotten themselves into their own groove of striking up a conversation every time I didn't have my eyes on them.

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Ariel Sacks

May 20, 2014

Expanding Definitions and Opportunities for Mentorship

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Earlier this month I shared advice on the power of mentoring that comes from my own experience with an amazing advisor. Find a mentor and keep in touch, I wrote, and that will help keep you stay connected to your purpose for teaching. The comments I received in response to this were very interesting, and expanded my thinking on the range of mentoring experiences from which teachers benefit.

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Ariel Sacks

May 12, 2014

What Teachers Want--Or So Say Students!

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Teacher Appreciation Week is a time of mixed emotions. I can't lie-I thoroughly enjoy the perks; but ironically, the very existence of Teacher Appreciation Week seems to prove that we are more often not as appreciated as we should be. This week, as I found myself unexpectedly covering a silent study hall, I pondered what I might write to recognize the particular tension of TAW. As the period came to a close, I decided to see what my students might say about it, with no idea what I'd hear.    

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Ariel Sacks

April 28, 2014

Product Placement on State ELA Test?

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While teachers might not be able to review and discuss the tests, it's near impossible to stop adolescents from criticizing something when they have a strong reaction. Remember when the students blew the whistle on the ridiculous use of the Pineapple story, posting on social media about it, to the point that the press and the state responded? Well, this year, my students shared with me their concerns over another unsettling, though less absurd matter: product placement in the reading passages.

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