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Opening Lesson for Elizabeth Acevedo's The Poet X

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

What I am Teaching This Year & Why

Like many other teachers around the world, we started this school year virtually. It made me instantly depressed and I ran straight out the door and bought myself a puppy to help balance out the disappointment and frustration of teaching online. Needless to say, learning how to take care of a puppy and learning how to teach virtually has taken up much of my time. But things have calmed down and we are in a bit of a routine now, so I want to post some resources.

There are way more qualified people out there who can give you tips on how to be a great virtual teacher, but I am not one of them. I hate it and I am just trying to hang on until I can get back into the classroom. The resources that I will post over the next few weeks have helped me get through the day.

Because I am a lucky duck, I have five different preps this year and four of them are new. You read that correctly. I am on my 15th year of teaching and somehow I still ended up with five different preps, four of which are new, and ALL of which I have never taught online. A schedule like this is annoying to me because none of my lessons are ever as good as they could be, but it's also fun because I am teaching all sorts of stuff over the course of a day; it helps to keep my mind off of things. I hope that next year I don't have any NEW preps, but I don't mind having a variety.

This year I have three reading classes (grade 9, grade 10, grade 11), one 10 Integrated class, and two sections of IB Language and Literature SL. The next few posts I will be focusing on my 9 & 10 reading classes since they voted to start the year by reading The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

How I Had Kids Vote on the Class Book

One thing I am committed to this year is trying (to the extent possible) to let the kids pick the books that we read as a whole class. (I have a lot of reasons for doing whole class texts in my reading class, but that's a whole other blog post.) To set up the vote, I gave the kids a reading questionnaire (attached below this paragraph), looked at the demographics of each class (listed in my grade book), and looked at their Reading Inventory scores. We use the Scholastic Reading Inventory as our baseline testing tool and it provides us with the reading range for each student based on lexile. After looking at all of this information, I offered my classes three books that I thought might match their interests and were within their “stretch” reading limits (ie: no more than 100 lexile points over their reading level. I offered my 9 & 10 reading classes Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Here is the reading questionnaire:

Reading Survey-Med_Adv.
Download PDF • 176KB

To introduce the books to the kids, I put a short PowerPoint together that for each book had a picture of the cover, the first page, and a short summary. I talked through the PowerPoint and read the first few pages of each book to the kids. After that, the kids voted by filling in a Google form. I have attached my PowerPoint if you would like to use it, but you will need to update the Google form or voting tool that you use, as mine is attached to my school account.

Here are the slides that I used to introduce the books:

Book Introduction
Download PPTX • 364KB

Since I have 5 preps this year, I hoped that some of my classes would vote on the same book, and I lucked out with my 9 & 10 reading classes opting for the same book: The Poet X. Phew.

If you have not read The Poet X yet, order it right now!! Elizabeth Acevedo creates stories for kids who often feel left out, who feel that literature does not represent them. Acevedo came to our school last year to talk about her writing, and my class of freshmen sat still for 45+ minutes listening to her speak. The kids will see themselves in her books. In The Poet X, Xiomara, a Dominican-American teen from Harlem, is trying to figure out who she is. She wants to join the school spoken word poetry club but cannot due to her very strict and very religious mother. She wants to date. She wants to dream. This is the story of Xiomara taking the steps to become who she wants to be.

Whenever I teach a book in my reading classes, I follow the "Before/During/After" (B/D/A) format that I learned in grad school to prep kids to read a passage.

Before: Activate background knowledge, pre-teach vocabulary, introduce big ideas

During: Have kids doing something while reading

After: Do something that helps kids process the text and that also helps you check for comprehension: connect back to the opening activities, write, whatever...just have them do something to process.