Saturday, May 7, 2016

Second Quarter Review

Mrs. Marr‘s English classes entered the world of the past as they began studying historical fiction and nonfiction in the second quarter. The unit opened with a Thank a Veteran event that occurred the week of Veterans Day. Students interviewed local veterans, who served during WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many veterans had a personal connection to Great Neck public schools: Mr. Sam Levitt (retired history teacher), Mr. Sheldon Zweig (retired guidance counselor), Mr. Gil Blum (retired principal of South High), and Mr. David Gurfein (South High alumnus). In their conversations with the veterans, students reflected upon the idea of heroism, the power of storytelling, and the effects of war on an individual and society. The veterans were impressed not only by the caliber of students' questions, but also by their respectful behavior. The Thank a Veteran event was filmed by our local HTV staff and footage will appear in news segments during homeroom. In flex, students created projects based upon their experiences. The ―Thank a Veteran event would not have been possible without the hard work and collaboration of Team Hero teachers and students, the library staff, HTV, the technology staff, the administration, and veterans from the local veterans centers. Thank you to all who made it a meaningful experience!

In the historical fiction unit, students read four books and one play as well as a number of nonfiction historical texts. Many of the historical topics and universal themes align with students‘ work in social studies class. First, students read the classic My Brother Sam Is Dead as a whole class novel, and applied the skills of accumulating the text, envisioning, and organizing and evaluating their ideas in their digital notebooks. Next, in small reading groups, students interpreted the crises faced by the teenage protagonists and the world in which he or she lives in one of the following novels: Light in the Forest, Sophia‘s War, Soldier‘s Heart, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, or The Fighting Ground. Students analyzed the Coming of Age motif across two texts making sure to cite specific evidence from both novels in classroom discussions and in their digital notebooks and extended responses. Students also read Petey by Ben Mikaelsen, an author they are familiar with from their work reading Touching Spirit Bear in the sixth grade. Ben Mikaelsen is this year's visiting author. Petey is based on a real life story of a person living with cerebral palsy in the 1920s -1990s. Through their reading of the novel and analysis of secondary sources about the Americans with Disabilities Act, students explored the rights of Americans with physical disabilities during that time period. Students have a chance to write a personal letter to Ben Mikaelsen. Students will also read Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin. If your child enjoys reading Lincoln‘s Grave Robbers, please encourage him or her to read other award-winning books by Mr. Sheinkin.

Finally, students will assume the roles of important historical figures when they study and perform scenes from 1776, The Musical. They will consider the historical context in which the play was written, the techniques used by the writers to breathe life into characters that actually existed in the past, the theme of the play, and its relevance to our lives today. Students will be challenged to think about whether they (and the nation) are living up to the promise of ―life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-- for all Americans.

Looking ahead to the third quarter, we will be studying nonfiction in greater depth, writing persuasive essays, tackling a research project, and reviewing test-taking techniques for the English Language Arts Assessment to be taken April 5-7, 2016. If you received a letter about your child‘s participation in the tutorial(s), please encourage your child to attend regularly to improve his or her skills. As always, students are encouraged to submit writing pieces to The Rebel Pen, South Middle‘s Art and Literary Magazine, and to Middleview, South Middle's student newspaper.