Always Running is a GREAT book to read with 11th or 12th grade Continuation School Students. My school is located close to the setting of this Los Angeles Coming of Age story. In Rodriquez' intro he states that this is the book that non-readers, read-I personally can confirm this is true. He also mentions that this is the most stolen book from libraries, I can attest to this too.
This memoir speaks to my students as they are able to compare themselves to the main character. although many of my students have not quite lived such a abused upbringing...some of my students have. This book is the perfect mix of high interest, medium - high text complexity, figurative language and imagery, and tons of opportunities for close readings.
A colleague and I decided to beef up our prior lesson plans and decided to include some Close Readings and a "Smarter Balance like" assessment of the close reading.
This was our first time, and we plan on tweaking a few things, but I thought it was worth sharing. We focused on the "The Long Run: New Introduction to Always Running" We felt that this gave a good overview of the Luis Rodriquez' writing style, intentions/audience, and the structure of the novel. Not only did it give students a taste of what to expect, but it explained the "why". Why it is an important story to write, why it is a necessary story to read, why this story is relevant to the world we live in today. Within these truths are beautiful metaphors, complex vocabulary and wonderful imagery that allows students to think and get buy-in...as if they needed extra buy-in, they were hooked in the first paragraph.
First we typed up important parts of the introduction for ourselves so we could write all over it. We needed a blank canvas to begin to really make a good lesson and unit plan. We highlighted key vocabulary and came up with a key concept. We bundled this concept with the documentary G-Dog, and since we are in Los Angeles we are lucky enough to take a field trip to Homeboys industries.
Key Concept: Adversity Essential Question: What does overcoming adversity look like?
Literary Elements we wanted to cover: writing style, figurative language, imagery, symbolism, repetition, citing evidence, and authors purpose
Direct Instruction Vocabulary for the Introduction: Adversity, thrive, accolades, insular-minded, nuance, transcendent.
View our Annotations and focus on Quotes from the Introduction. For students using a text book this can be done with Post-its, half sheet that refer back to paragraph numbers, or typing up of key paragraphs for students to write on. My close readings will be available on Teacherspayteachers.com really soon!
For more ideas on teaching Always Running I am going to post my lessons on Teacherspayteachers.com very soon! Stay tuned!
In Continuation schools we find many students HATE writing essays, and that is pretty much the consensus I got at comprehensive schools as well; but, in my opinion essays are the gateway to student knowledge. That is to say essays or any writing for that matter, allow students the chance to really show what they know, and I like that.
At my school we have school-wide writing prompts that give us data on what we need to be teaching students in all of our classes, focused on writing. We stress the need for thesis statements because they are usually the answer to a prompt/ question/ performance task. So if they can answer that clearly, they usually got the concept and can write about it in more detail. Here is an example of the rubric we used. We found that it was essential to all be on the same page and have the same goal when grading the essay. Some key things we looked for were, clear and focused thesis statements, sentence variation, descriptive language, spelling and grammar errors, and paragraph sentence length. We had to put in paragraph sentence length because we found a wave students that thought that a line on a piece of paper was a sentence, rather than a complete sentence with a Capital letter to start the sentence, and a period to finish the complete sentence. I have found this is common amongst students that attend continuation schools, and something that we teach as soon as we get a new student. We also used this to grade a pass/ not passing grade. All not passing grades students would have to edit for a grade. To get buy-in to our writing prompt is an assignment, and if they don't pass they just make the necessary edits for credit. We feel that editing and refining is the best way our students can learn to be good writers.
Having a school wide writing prompt helped us move in the direction of the Common Core. It allowed all content area teachers see the writing expectations students were getting in the English classes, which allowed other content area teachers to practice looking for good writing so they could model those expectations in their classrooms. If you would like to use this in your class, you are welcome to use and edit this rubric as necessary. For the name blocked out Word Doc of this rubric click here