Thursday, October 20, 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

An Experiment in Writing

In graduate school, I read a few articles and essays from Stanley Fish on college composition. I remember that he created a real world audience for his students by creating periodical publications that he would self-publish university-wide. In this same line of thought, I have been thinking of a way to apply this idea in the project based learning, high school, humanities classroom.

I have many students who can write well already and need the pressure and excitement of a real audience. I have students who have a good understanding of writing and need help to find voice and coherence in writing. And I have a few students who need some elementary grammar and composition mistakes that have never really been addressed. At all levels, the dynamic of writing for an authentic audience and having their work on the internet or in a bound text will help them to see another purpose than writing for only the teacher’s eyes.

The project will include a blog and a self-published journal of writings from students. I want to allow the students to choose the genre and content of their texts, but I will encourage them to keep it non-fiction or fiction based on their perspectives as juniors at New Tech High @ Coppell. The vision for the blog and the publication is to show the many perspectives from this junior class. The students will have a digital and print collection of writing that they create and will have their names in the by-lines. (Truth be told; I am trying to be the type of teacher that I wish I had growing up. While I have had many great teachers in literature and a few great composition professors, I want to give my students the opportunity to make something they can be proud of and something they can set out into the world on the sea of information and perspectives.)

I want this project to run parallel to the project work that we do throughout the year, and I want it to be ungraded. My hope is that the lack of grade will remove unwanted, educational pressure and free up the students to take risks. I also want to work with a total of between 4-6 students each week across all of my classes so that I can give individual attention to students without feeling the rush of getting through everyone in a timely manner. This will also give me a chance to grow a professional relationship with my students outside of what I am doing with every student every day. (I re-wrote that last sentence about three times because I don’t want my students to read that and feel like I am trying to manipulate a relationship when my desire is to foster my relationships with them apart from the content. I never want students to feel as if I don’t actually care about them outside of the class and curriculum because that is untrue.)

The blog will be set up here, and I hope to publish the first edition of the book/journal by the end of April 2017.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Next month, I will start my eighth year of teaching in public schools and my second year teaching at a project based school (New Tech). I teach American Studies as part of a team taught humanities course. I am responsible for the Honors English III and AP English Language and Composition curriculum. Every year I try and set some goals for myself, so here is my list for this year.

1.     STRONG CO-TEACHER RELATIONSHIP:  I am teaching with a new co-teach this year and the dynamic between us will be different from last year. From what I have determined, Mr. H and I are both strong minded, type-A personalities. Therefore, I will need to give a little more than I had to last year. Mr. H seems very confident in his content and the social studies skills. This means we will have to learn to trust each other and build a relationship that feeds off of one another.

2.     ULTIMATE LEARNER CHOICE:  I determined at the end of last year that I wanted to have more learner choice in products for their projects. This requires more grading, prep, and scaffolding, but it allows the learner to tap into their greatest motivators thereby giving them the opportunity to learn and retain more skills and information. I need to encourage learners to seek challenges and to think outside of the project box. I also need to plan projects in such a way that lets learners have maximum choice while still staying true to the College Board standards and TEKS

3.     PARENT COMMUNICATION:  This is always on my mind and it is so hard to do sometimes. I want the learners to take charge of their own learning and not rely on the facilitator-parent relationship to keep them on track. However, I do need to keep parents updated with happenings in class and when their learner is not performing well. Maybe I will set up a regular mass email with parents to open the line of communication

4.     MORE IN PROJECT ASSESSMENT: As an English teacher, I am always grading and assessing final products (usually essays). I have been learning to assess mid-product and allow learners to improve and adjust throughout the project. If I grade at the end, there is no motivation for growth from the comments and assessment. One of the problems with grading this way is that learners and parents do not always understand when the majority of the grade is not given for the final product. This is something I will have to help them both understand

5.     MORE UNASSESSED READING AND WRITING:  Part of becoming a mature reader and writer is by constant practice in multiple mediums. Learners need a push into reading all types of texts and writing well for multiple aims, but they do not always take it seriously when there is no accountability.  I am thinking of grading their “Agency” twice a six-weeks, where they are required to show evidence of growth, motivation, and personal responsibility. This will be an ongoing log where they prove that their “Agency” is proficient or advanced

6.     WRITING FOR AUTHENTIC AUDIENCES: I want to help students write for real audiences, not just for me. They need to write for each other, for experts, and for all different communities. I am not sure how I am going to do this one, but I will be researching and looking for good writing audiences as we move through the semester.