Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I have been discussing the concept of "choice" with my scholars. They are making choices everyday. Making good choices has not always been one of their strengths. They all understood that some choices they made in the recent past got them to our school. We are not a school choice option in the scheme of choosing high schools in NYC. We are a transfer school, a last chance school. Some choices have landed them in jail or pregnant or homeless. They know about bad choices at an early age. Unfortunately, some choices end in death, as my daughter experienced yesterday at her school. We have already lost two students this year. So when I do this lesson on choice, they bring too much prior knowledge to the table. Now we are concerned with developing good choices.

I use a short story and a poem to wrestle with the concept of choice in class. The short story is "Dead End" by Rudolfo Anaya. The poem is Robert Frost's 1916 classic, "The Road Not Taken." The short story lesson involves a student in high school who has to make a number of choices involving sex, drugs, and school work. In addition, the student makes a promise to a mother who recently died. These are common choices for all of us, not just my scholars. They like the story, they write well about Maria, the student who has to make choices in "Dead End." As many of my scholars point out, knowing what the right choice is and acting on it are two different things. We know smoking is bad and yet we see lots of people smoking. We know what the right choice is, yet we make the wrong one too often.

As we prepared to study the poem, I started with a graphic organizer project to have the scholars create a visual representation of "choice." We got stuff like "going to school," going to work," "having a baby," "selling drugs." The concept was solid, so we were ready for the poem lesson. I started with a Wordle representation of the poem. Wordle accepts text and converts it into a visual representation highlighting the key words and providing a picture of the text. We use that to understand some of the key words before we even hear the poem.

Once we discussed the key words,"diverged" was major and key to our understanding as we then listened to a rendition of Frost reading his poem, followed by two volunteers from LibriVox. The scholars had some questions they needed to address as they listened to the poem read four times. Finally, I showed them the poem and I read it one more time before they began their writing assignment about choice as understood from the short story, the poem, and their own life.

They all chose to do the assignment. I'm glad I chose to do this assignment and to speak about choice with the scholars as we are at a crucial juncture of their academic career. They have chosen to be here and to complete high school. We all know how hard that choice has been to keep. They expressed that making the right choice in the beginning is easier than not making the right choice and having to suffer the consequences of the bad choices or wasting time from time lost when a bad choice is made. lesson learned the hard way in some cases. These scholars are the survivors.

Hoping your choices are all good ones.

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