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The Teacher Feature: Hillary Boles – Valentine’s Day Edition

February 14, 2014


Hillary Boles is a rock star NEA Master Teacher.

She teaches Grade 6 ELA at Oldham County Middle School in Buckner, Kentucky.

In today’s Teacher Feature, we picked Hillary’s brain about Valentine’s Day in her classroom.

Dana Bein; Marketing Associate; BetterLesson: Do you have any Valentine’s Day memories from school when you were a kid?

Hillary: I still remember the paper bag that I decorated with doilies that had my name written in a construction paper heart. We all stood in a single-file line and delivered our Valentines to our classmates’ bags. Then we went home and read each one a dozen times, taking tally of who gave us one and who didn’t.

Dana: Yeah, those were the days! I remember building heart shaped mailboxes for the front of our desks. It doesn’t work like that anymore. How do you approach Valentines Day at Oldham County Middle School?

Hillary: We like to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Dana: Haha. Why is that?

Hillary: Being a middle school teacher, I’m in new territory. Sixth graders are new at this. This is my first year teaching 6th grade. In past years, when I’ve taught 7th grade, the holiday is essentially overlooked by those kids. They care more about using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to sneak candy, than admit that it has any connection to feelings or love.

To sixth graders, this is going to be a MAJOR DEAL. I’m predicting a lot of note passing, extra bouncy curly ponytails, and boys awkwardly teasing girls in some kind of flirting ritual (actually, this has started early this year and I’m having to remind boys that making fun of a girl’s shoes is not a way to impress).

Dana: It’s not? I’ll write that down. So, how do you channel that excitement? Is there a way you can ground that energy for them?

Hillary: I’m cutting them off at the pass with a lesson that connects to our unit, and to literary love couples. Our unit assessment asks the students to choose a character from the novel we are reading, and to make claims about how they’ve changed over time. Then, students support these claims with evidence from the text.

For Valentine’s Day, though, I thought that it would be fun to brainstorm well-known literary couples and to show their change over time, and how that ended in a relationship. I’m thinking of Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games trilogy. Peeta always loves Katniss, but it takes her most of the trilogy to change into the person who loves Peeta. She begins to mirror his selflessness when fighting for what’s right and, in effect, begins to see his selflessness as a virtue rather than a suspicion.

Ron and Hermione from Harry Potter go through all sorts of changes in their relationship.

Obviously, readers see them grow from children to young adults through the course of the series, but these characters begin to see themselves differently as well. They begin as friends, then go through the jealous stage when they each begin seeing other people, and they, at last, fall in love while fighting against evil. The external changes surrounding them thrust them into each other’s protective arms.

I want my students to see that external and internal changes affect who characters are.Sometimes these changes can even lead to love. Who knows? Maybe I have a Ron and a Hermoine sitting in my class right now.

Dana: Maybe! Keep us posted on how the lesson goes today.

Hillary: OK!

Dana: Happy Valentines Day to you and everyone at Oldham County!

Check out all of Hillary’s Grade 6 ELA lessons on CC.BetterLesson here.

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