Workshop Challenges: Re-teaching versus Coaching

As I’ve implemented a readers-writers workshop approach over the past 18 months, I have noticed a challenge between different sections of my freshmen and sophomore English courses. In my Honors courses, workshop time generally entails brief coaching sessions on the big picture of writing tasks or brief chats on fine-tuning style. Conversely, my standard and inclusive (“Academic,” “college-prep” level) English classes often require more re-teaching or intensive scaffolding. This differentiation between the two types of courses has become more evident the more I get in-tune with my students’ needs and the workings of a workshop.
Coaching in Workshop
For my Honors-level students, workshop provides time for students to delve into their learning, and my Gifted Support co-teacher and I can ask a few clarifying questions, answer a few inquiries, or model sentence construction. For the most part, the students in our Honors courses pick up quickly on new ideas, so I can model combining sentence…

A Year in Review

This obligatory year-in-review blog serves a couple purposes. It serves as a table of contents from the past year, but it also provides some updates on where I currently am with my practice. My blog is meant to record my journey of transforming my teaching practices, so compiling and crafting this current post was helpful to me as I was able to contextualize my journey: it was a lot in one year!

A note of clarification as you read on: I teach on an 80-minute, intensified block schedule, so I see my high school students 80 minutes every day for half a school year (and then we switch semesters).
Enjoy, and please reach out (@NAEmmanuele)!

1-7-18: Writing a Workshop Curriculum.
1-14-18: (Re)Writing Assessments for Secondary Writing Workshop. I have maintained the workshop and mini-lesson structure elaborated upon here. I no longer utilize GrammarFlip (budgetary constraints) and we have shifted from Wordly Wise (for Vocabulary) to I am still working on having students keep a d…

Deadlines: Assigned, Extended, or Flexible?

In my shift to standards-based grading, I knew I needed to address deadlines for assignments. For the majority of my career, I have accepted work beyond its due date without penalty: If it is worth my time assigning, it is worth my students’ time to complete. If I assign a summative task to assess learning, being late does not assess my students’ demonstration of the learning target. I know there is the argument that we are teaching “responsibility” by keeping hard deadlines, but I need to teach and assess my students on their learning in English Language Arts. I can address professionalism through conversation (with students, parents, counselors, or case managers); my school does not have a way to separately assess professionalism and responsibility as some schools do.
This year, now that my workshop procedure is in full swing, I thought I’d relax my deadlines a bit: I’d give a deadline, but I wanted students to know if they needed more time, they cou…

Qualifying Proficiency Levels with Look-Fors

As I work to assess my students more appropriate in my workshop environment, I have continually shifted how my rubrics are formatted. After hearing Dr. Connie Moss from Duquesne University (@DUSchoolofEd) speak on Learning Targets again at a recent in-service, I began to see how her concept of “student Look-Fors” could better articulate our learning goals in class. “Look-Fors” are the aspects in a learning experience that students can look for in their own work to see if they are on-target to demonstrate their learning. In earlier iterations, I had written Learning Targets with accompanying Performances of Understanding (POU) for each lesson.
For example, here is one of my Learning Target and Performance of Understanding from two years ago:
I know I can discuss text structure when I categorize examples from the myth of Theseus into the aspects of the Hero’s Journey.
The first portion (“I know I can discuss text structure”) is the learning target, while the proof (“when I categorize exam…

Finding a Reading Workshop within my Writing Workshop

I was able to co-present at the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English (@PCTELANews) Conference last weekend (October 19-20) with my good friend, Dr. Jen Toney (@JENTONEY). We presented on Writing Workshops in K-12. Jen is a third grade teacher, and as I teach ninth and tenth grade, we divided the session into elementary and secondary sections after an overview. As I explained my journey to my group—including my daily class schedule (15 minutes of independent reading, 20 minutes of instruction, 45 minutes of workshop)—I got many questions on the independent reading I allow my students.
In considering how the session went, I had to inquire more with Jen on her elementary reading workshop approach because I realized that my class has independent reading as a central component (especially when students are asked to write about their writing in writing workshop), but that I do not have a true reading workshop approach.
Most of my instruction leads my students to writing about their re…

Letting Go of Stories I Love So Students Can Find Stories They Love

As I have shifted to a readers-writers workshop approach and focused more on standards-based learning, I have had to change not just how I teach but what I teach. If students are working more in class (rather than on homework or writing outside of class), I cannot fill an 80-minute block with lecture or group reading. Comprehension questions are no longer necessary as students are working on a lot of independent reading or as they are writing paragraph-length analyses. This has caused me to “lose” some stories and lessons I have enjoyed in the past.
But that’s the catch. I enjoyed them. We all know we each appreciate different stories and different concepts. When I opened my class up to choice reading and having students analyze their own texts, I had to provide more class time for this. As others have said more eloquently than me, we must make time for what we value. I want my students to love what they are reading (and, by extension, I want them to love reading), and I want my studen…

Constructing Standards-Based Rubrics in the Secondary ELA Classroom

My Instruction and Assessment Philosophy
Over the past couple years, I have been reading into standards-based grading and “healthy” grading practices. Along with a variety of blog posts, @TG2Chat/#tg2chat and the #sblchat community, the following resources have assisted me in developing my standards-based assessment (and, in turn, instruction) philosophy:
·Grading from the Inside Outby Tom Schimmer (@TomSchimmer) ·On Your Markby Thomas R. Guskey (@tguskey) ·Assessment 3.0by Mark Barnes (@markbarnes19) ·Standards-Based Learning in Actionby Tom Schimmer (@TomSchimmer), Garnet Hillman (@garnet_hillman), and Mandy Stalets (@MandyStalets)
I believe that students must seek learning, not points, and that their grade in my course should be a reflection on that learning. To that end, I allow students to reassess to show mastery, and my workshop approach allows me to coach individual students as they work. I am still averaging scores, but my gradebook this semester will look different than it has in …