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Students E-mailing Home

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Although I only briefly touched on students e-mailing home in my previous post (after my initial post on it back in January), I wanted to expand on how I currently employ student-authored e-mails home.
As I noted initially, I was inspired by Catlin Tucker’s (@catlin_tucker) post, “Students E-mail Their Parents About Missing Work.” Situated in a workshop approach with a move toward standards-based grading, my process has changed a bit since its inception.
PURPOSE
While I liked the purpose to let students know that parents would be made aware of their work, I quickly realized the exercise was mostly for my students: we would be embarking on some self-reflection. This would be new for some of my students, summarizing and reflecting on their work and learning.
Contacting parents became a side-effect of actual class time to pause and reflect. The goal is to reconsider their daily work logs, completed readings and writings, and their plan of action moving forward.
I have had a good number of pa…

The State of My Readers-Writers Workshop

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This week is our Spring Break, so it’s the perfect time for me to reflect on the workshop practices in my high school English Language Arts classes. For those who have been following my journey into workshoping, much of this will be familiar; however, this blog will also highlight many of the revisions I’ve made since its inception. This is a bit lengthy, but I hope it can be of some assistance.

CLASS STRUCTURE
I divide my class into three sections, as follows: ·15 minutes of independent reading time. Students enter the room, rearrange the desks as their class decided upon, and settle into reading their self-selected novel. ·20 minutes of direct instruction. This may be modeling a reading strategy, modeling writing, lecturing on a new topic, or reviewing the expectations of an assignment. My co-teachers and I may ask questions and engage the class at this time, but often it is direct instruction, and sometimes only lasts ten or fifteen minutes. There are days, however, when we spend a bit…

Student Choice in Classroom Organization

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Being in the thick of transitioning to a workshop model can be overwhelming and tiring.
My students have been working hard (often quietly and independently) and I have been working to conference with at least two students a day (who was I kidding to think I could reach upwards of five in one block?). We were settling into a routine and that terrible Specter of Perceived Rigor started looming again.
So I decided to change things up.
Twitter has been a great forum to gain ideas from other educators, and so many have been championing and sharing their stories of student voice and choice (such as @CRCarter313 at the elementary level). I acknowledge that I have been hanging onto control for a while (including desks in rows and silent workshop time), which is why I began the move to workshop to begin with: it’s about my students, not me.
THE SHAKE-UP
Last Friday, I tasked each of my classes to rearrange the room in a way that worked best for them.
I have two sections of Honors English 9 (with a …