Reflections on Domain 1: Planning and Preparation

1a. Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy

I have taken several workshops in Visible Thinking, and I use it consistently in my classroom.  I have found that the SEE/THINK/WONDER exercise is a wonderful lead-in to the Jane Schaeffer style of writing embraced by the Webster Central School District.

I have an in-depth knowledge of mythology and the Hero’s Journey process through my association with the Joseph Campbell Foundation and as past leader of the Mythological RoundTable (R) Group of Rochester.  I use this knowledge to create lessons that create a greater understanding of Cultural Mythology and The Odyssey

Student work with the Hero’s Journey culminates in the publication of an annual anthology of short stories.  My experience with on-line publishing through the publication of my own books aids me in this part of my work with students.  As such, I have working knowledge of what makes good writing.

As a stage performer who was trained in Theatre during a summer session at Thames Valley University in London, England under the tutelage of Rodney West from the Royal Shakespeare Company, I have much to bring to my students’ understanding of theatre and plays, particularly the works of William Shakespeare.  I also perform with various community theatre companies in the Rochester area.

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1b. Demonstrating knowledge of students

Early in the year, the English Department gave a pre-assessment so as to determine the strengths and weaknesses of our particular group of students.  Through the results, I knew what I needed to focus on at least in the realm of persuasive writing with my classes.

As a teacher of the enriched program, students are expected to come in with strong writing skills, so I create lessons that involve higher level thinking and reasoning skills, and I challenge their use of effective sentence structure and diction.  I am also familiar with what is popular in teenage literature, and since these are most likely my readers of current young adult fiction, I work to connect the curriculum literature they will be assigned to that which they read by choice.

This year was my first time teaching Consultant classes, and I worked with my consulting teacher to better get to know my special education students through studying their IEP’s and/or 504 plans in depth. While working with their accommodations, I still held them to the same rigor and level of expectations as my Regents students. As they will be taking the same assessments, it would have been a disservice to them to do otherwise. After seeing their extreme progress throughout the year, I was pleased to learn that I would be moving up to English 10 next year.

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1c. Setting instructional outcomes

I use District-approved rubrics for grading writing assignments, particularly those that model state assessments.  I allow students to see the rubrics in advance so that they are aware of the expectations.   For some long-term projects, I show them models of former students’ work (many allow me to keep their projects afterwards) so that they can get an idea of what I am looking for in their work. 

Although I teach similar literature to both levels (English 9 enriched and 9 Regents/Consultant), I adapt lessons for each level.  There are things I may have to work more on with the Regents kids (like doing more close readings of certain speeches in Romeo and Juliet or of the poems in the poetry unit) than are necessary with the Enriched students. Because of the struggles with reading comprehension, I decided not to read The Odyssey with my Consultant classes because I did not wish to stress them beyond their present capabilities. I made up for the Lexile levels with the selections of poems in the poetry unit, which included Tennyson, Keats, and Poe.

I also decided that it would serve the Consultant classes better if I did the research paper as a separate unit instead of having them work on it while in the midst of a literature unit.   As per district instruction, I used the Odell Research Module (Music) for them. My Enriched students completed the research project in conjunction with the Cultural Mythology unit as their topic was Storytelling.

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1d. Demonstrating knowledge of resources

For my enriched classes, I purchase (out of my own pocket) a Ning website for online class assignments.  I maintain and weekly update these websites while also monitoring student performance on the online assessments.

I also purchased (out of my own pocket) access to Flashpoint Interactive for both literature and for the Root of the Week assignments that all students (Enriched, Regents, and Consultant) complete online.

When publishing the student short story anthology, I am savvy with using Lulu.  I work with students on creating the cover for the book, and then I do the uploading and final editing for publication.  I also post websites of various writing contests so that students may submit their work for possible publication and honors.

On the classroom sites, I place links to helpful online sources for all units.

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1e. Designing coherent instruction

I create study guides for my students that not only provide background material about the author and topics/ideas we shall be exploring in a particular piece, but I give them vocabulary lists, reading questions, Reader Response questions, and literary analysis questions.   Because I have seen how Visible Thinking exercises have benefited my students’ writing in the past, I work to create thoughtful Visible Thinking exercises to accompany the units of study.  I know that students need to be prepared for the state tests, so I design lessons and assessments that mirror what they might see in the future.

My curriculum advisor, Jeremy McBride, has copies of all my unit plans on file.

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1f. Designing student assessments

All assessments are designed to test skills that students will need to be successful in all areas of English Language Arts, but particularly those that will be presented on state (and soon, federal) standardized tests.  I particularly focus on the areas of:

1.  persuasive writing

2.  literary analysis

3.  close reading of both fiction and non-fiction

4.  research

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