Friday, April 7, 2017

Literary Blocks (GUEST POST)

In my role as a Digital Learning Coach, I have the privilege of working with teachers ("fellows") supporting them in finding ways for technology to improve / enhance the lessons they teach with the goal of better & deeper student learning. Several fellows have taken the leap to blog about their experiences and share specific lessons with all of you. I hope you benefit from reading about their journey. 

  GUEST POST by Tracey Ryan, HS English Teacher

Cross-posted from

Everything in the English classroom is dependent on students reading the assigned texts.  I am always trying to figure out ways to engage students - to make them go back into the text to further their understanding.  Too often - I have them respond to quotes and write a "chunk."  For each chunk, students respond by providing context, close text analysis, and purpose. It's essential for them to understand how authors make meaning, but my selection of the quotes and the formulaic ways they are required to respond puts the onus for understanding and learning on me rather than the students.

After reading read a blog post from Dawn Lam [Mrs. Lam's Musings], I decided to "borrow" her idea of modifying the game "Cards Against Humanity."  I purchased wooden blocks from Amazon and wrote on each side a different literary device.  My class had finished reading the first four chapters of Lord of the Flies. Instead of me dictating what the students would examine in the first four chapters - I let them roll the block to determine what literary aspect of the first four chapters their group would examine.

After rolling for their literary device, the group had to figure out how they would present their analysis.  We've practiced with a few tech tools this year so I gave them free choice as to how they wanted to present their findings.  My suggestions included;  Google Slides, Google Drawings, Adobe Spark, Infographics, Hyperdocs or even just a Google Doc.    Most students played it safe and went with Google Slides but some ventured into Google Drawing, Adobe Spark, and Popplet.  Examples of some of the final products follow:
Imagery - Google Drawings

Characterization of Jack - Adobe Spark 

Analysis of Conflict - Google Slides

Analysis of Symbolism - Popplet

After sharing the assignment with my grade level team we came up with a series of variations on how to grow the assignment.  

  • Roll two blocks - one for the literary device - the other for the purpose.  We came up with two separate lists.  The device list included:  conflict, characterization, syntax, motif, imagery, figurative language (metaphor/simile, symbolism, personification, etc.).  The purpose list included:  theme, character,  setting, tone, mood/atmosphere, and point of view. Some of the devices are interchangeable with the purposes. (Thanks C.Kirch for the suggestion)
  • List the lens of literary criticism on the sides of the block and have students roll to determine through which lens they will examine the text.

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