Today, we were playing catch up in my Honors English 9 class. The snow day yesterday was a nice break, but meant rethinking what were the must do skills/content for the remainder of the week. Priority number one was finishing up our study of Greek mythology.
To this end, I divided the class into four groups, assigning each group a myth or set of myths to read and summarize in a visual and linguistic representation on chart paper. The students settled in and got to work. Monitoring their work allowed me to see group dynamics in action. One group made sure every group member had a job to do. One group divided the task among the members: some reading, some taking notes, and some working on the poster. Another group read the myth together and then each drew a section of the tale on the chart paper.
Aside from watching the students engaging with each other and the material, I got to see one of those special moments — the kind an English teacher lives for. One group of students were discussing a particular aspect of their myth; the discussion turned to argument and disagreement. The moment happened when one of the students picked up her copy of Hamilton’s Mythology and told the others to just hold on. At that, the other five students stopped and turned with her to the text. They scanned and re-read until they found the detail they had been debating.
It’s a simple thing, a skill those of us who are readers and writers use without thought, but to see my ninth grade students step up and resolve a conflict by consulting the text was nothing less than miraculous. It was a moment when learning was visible. It was a moment of affirmation. It made my day, and it might just have made my year.
Scrolling through today’s Twitter feed, I saw a post from TwoWritingTeachers.org about the 2017 Slice of Life challenge. I was intrigued and followed a couple of links to find out what this was all about. Here’s the info: https://twowritingteachers.org/challenges/.
This was something I needed. A way to make myself put butt
in chair and fingers on keys each and every day for personal writing. So tomorrow, I and my fellow “slicers” will begin a journey…one of reflection on our own daily lives and on the writings of each other. Let’s see what we discover.
I’ve just read Lisa Dennis’ blog post “What is Your Teaching Everest?” It was my diversion from grading and from thinking about how far behind I am on grading. Dennis’ premise is that her Everest is prompt, timely feedback. She offers several suggestions on trying to offer meaningful, forward moving feedback to her students.
One example: one pager submissions, which are graded against a rubric for a formative score and to which she emails 5 students per class with reactions, not corrections. In this way, she develops a deeper relationship with her students and her students receive prompt, meaningful feedback. This also provides her with insight into what each student is in need of during conference time.
Instead of students turning in reading logs, Dennis has her students take a picture of their reading reflection response and then email the pic to her. Thus, Dennis has all the information from the reading log needed without collecting the logs.
Using student self-assessment is another way to get feedback. The teacher doesn’t have to give the feedback for students to learn. Teaching students to self-assess moves them toward being life-long learners.
Lastly, Dennis vows to “Listen first, respond, encourage, and redirect/suggest later.” As a teacher I am a guide not a steamroller. Students working/practicing leads to student growth; thank you Harry Wong.
So, how does all this impact me. First, I’ve gotten a nice breather from being the focus of attention. Students are reading and/or studying for tomorrow’s vocabulary. The stack of ungraded papers still looms large on my desk. Now, though, I can think of how I can, in the coming days and next semester, move toward making grading/assessing more meaningful and more prompt. I’ve put some new strategies in my teacher tool-box. I’ve thought some new thoughts. What more could I want in a day’s work.
The 2016-17 school year has begun. I’m at a new school that’s much closer to home. It hasn’t been the smoothest start, as the hubby was hospitalized for 8 days. He’s home now, and I’m hoping things will be smoother from here on out.
This fall will be busy with teaching, writing, a new grandchild, and a wedding. And that’s just September! I’m learning to be a morning person. Part of this is due to the hubby’s IV antibiotic and part is due to needing time to write and meditate prior to the day beginning. It’s not easy when the alarm goes off; eventually, it will become more natural.