July has come to an end and it’s that time when the thought of school starts to plant its seed in every teacher’s mind. What will this year be like? What will my students be like? What will I do differently? What worked last year and what didn’t work? What unit will I bring back and what unit will I lay to rest? What new project will finally wake my students up? What questions will get every hand up in the air?
A few thoughts for this year:
Adjust to what your students need
If your students don’t like speaking in front of the whole class (I find this to be true for more and more students every year) then allow students to work in groups and share out their thoughts on the topic. If they tend to get distracted in groups, start with independent work and then shift to students working with a partner. Students could post their responses online anonymously and then you could quickly review their responses and ask follow up questions. If your students like visuals and graphics, have them work on a visual that they could explain to the class. If they are shy bunch, have them respond to a question with an audio recording on their phone. If they really like quiet independent work, have each student keep a physical journal they update daily.
Don’t take work home
If you’re still taking work home, reflect on the ways you could prevent that from happening. Think about how much feedback you give on essays and how you even define the word feedback. How else can you give verbal feedback? Think about mini lessons on writing, short revision activities, quick informal conferences with students, and shortcuts for comments. Consider how many units or essays you assign in each quarter. Is it too much? What other easy-to-grade writing assignments could replace formal essays? How do you spend time at school? Do you have quiet space with no distractions? I normally start the week with planning and then shift to grading before the weekend. If I need extra time to grade, I might delay the end of a unit with an extra activity.
Ask students to express themselves in modern ways
Many students can’t make the connection between English class and the modern world, and that’s because they fail to recognize the connection between the media they consume and their own critical thinking and writing skills. Writing will always be the foundation of an English class, but packaging and communicating that writing with media can be exciting for students. This includes video essays, short films, podcasts, graphic essays, one-pagers, and of course slides. At the end of a unit on satire (Addison and Steele) I had students work in groups to create satirical broadcast news (in the style of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show), websites, political cartoons, short stories, and short films.
Teacher's Workshop, professional development for secondary ELA teachers