Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gearing Up For Year 3: Goal/Objective Setting

Today I started actively planning and thinking about my Third Year teaching high school. This time last year, I procrastinated, but I was constantly thinking about what I would do differently. For Year Two, I was focused on classroom management. This gives you an idea of what my first year was like. Year One: I “wrote up” at least 3 students EVERY WEEK. It was terrible. The kids were terrible and they knew it. I was awful, too. Therefore, last summer I concentrated on classroom management and discipline. Classroom management & discipline was great for Year Two.

This year (Y3) my focus is on content and teaching strategies. Following the pattern of Frumteacher, I started with setting my goals. As I talked with TeamTeacher this morning, I outlined some of my major goals for this year (World History, mainly):

  • Including literacy component to my World History. This means that we are going to try and read several books this year. She set a limit of 3. I would love to do four, so that I can include something from Black History. Right off, I know we will read Escape From Slavery by Francis Bok. We are looking at reading an account of the Holocaust—I picked The Hiding Place. I’m looking for a 3rd Book, I think I would like a fiction book that deals with Islam, possibly Islam and women. . . Any suggestions, all you readers out there?

  • Increasing the writing skills of my students. If our district’s motto is to prepare our students for college, as I explained to Team Teacher, we MUST start working with their writing skills before the tenth grade. I want them to be able to write at least a 2 page essay by the end of the year. The problem is our 9th grade English teachers DO NOT focus on this. They do in the honors classes, but not in regular. So, our dilemma/debate/issue is that we have to teach them how to write this type of paper. As we discussed this, we honestly DO NOT know how to this. Again, I am coming to all of my faithful readers, writers & ENGLISH TEACHERS: Is there as website or resource we could use so that we give our children basic instruction on essay writing for our classes? These should be brief lessons. Like 5 or 10 minute lessons, which we could build on weekly AND by the end of the year they should be able to write their own essays.

  • I am also looking for strategies/lesson ideas in which the kids get to use their hands more often. My games are always successful in reiterating what we have taught. The kids get to move, chat with each other and usually end up moving their hands. It is rowdy, but it works. I’d like to find more activities (independent or pairs) that cause the children to use their hands or bodies that would help them with retention and comprehension. I want to decrease the amount of time that I spend lecturing. I won’t eliminate it b/c in history it’s just necessary, especially with a mixture of reading levels and abilities in the classroom.

  • Finally, I would focus on connecting the present with the past. I want my students to see the relevance of the major events we talk about. I would like them to see how it affects them now. Honestly, I really don’t think that I will get to this in Year 3. But it is a goal.

For African American history the goals are different.

  • I will also include a literacy component. We are going to read Incidents in the Life of Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs and Native Son by Richard Wright

  • They, too, will do A LOT of writing. I won't teach it b/c the class is for 10-12 grade students.

Because its only a semester long class, I can't go beyond this in my planning. But we are definitely looking at race, ethnicity and identity. It will be a challenging year.


Mrs. Bluebird said...

I am blown away by your comment about essay writing. Our district uses something called 6+1 model of writing, in all grades, and my building does school-wide writing assignments at least once a month (drives the math teachers crazy). My seventh graders can, usually, do an essay by the end of the year. Some of them can start off the year writing wonderful essays. I guess it's working as our scores on the statewide 8th grade writing assessment are excellent - and we're a low income school.

As for getting the kids to do things wih their hands...go to www.dinah.com and look into purchasing one of Dinah Zike's books on foldables. Our department (7th grade science) has used her technique of making graphic organizer foldables, basically where you fold paper, staple and cut (there are lots of different designs) and use these instead of notes. The kids love these because they're doing something with their hands and not just sitting there writing notes. I've found that these are excellent study aids and the kids get very creative with them.

Betsy said...

Several things-
1. I don't know of any writing resources off the top of my head, but I will definitely be on the lookout for you.

2. Make sure you check with your English department about books that have been covered in their classes. To check for overlap, but more importantly to have that cross-curricular connection for the students. To Kill a Mockingbird would be a great reference for your AA history class.

3. Be aware of the reading levels of your students. They may be 12th graders, but their reading levels may be significantly lower. I am thinking in particular of Native Son- that is a challenging book. I read it in college and struggled with some of it. See if the school has reading level scores. It is known as the Lexile score- you can check the levels online too see approximately what grade level they are reading at. Excellent resource.

4. Don't forget about short stories! If you can't work in a novel because of time, short stories are a wonderful way to still get that information and perspective- you could even do a grouping of 2-3 stories, break up the students into groups, , give critical thinking/comparison questions, and then have them share. I've done this and it works pretty well.

5. Does your school/district motto really state that the goal is prepare students for college? Is that all you're preparing them for, or do they also list other things? 'Cause if it's just college....well, there's something seriously wrong with that, IMHO.

Done with my entry for your blog! Sorry about that!

Betsy said...

And Bluebird has an excellent suggestion about foldables- they are a GREAT way for students to organize information, create projects, etc. while using their hands. Strongly recommend it. I will be doing them with parts of speech.

Eric said...

I have nothing of substance to add (what else is new?!), but I just have one question...

Where did you get that picture of me pointing at the book? I thought I had deleted all copies of that picture.

On a serious note - I'll also be on the look-out for sites for you. I thought I had some but I can't find them now.

Frumteacher said...

I find it inspiring to read your list, especially because in my list I was 'just' focussing on classroom management. I will have a lot of preparation this coming year because I will be teaching lots of new classes.

1. I did this this year and I plan to do more of it. I taught Russian history and we read parts of Tolstoj's Anna Karenina (about the abolishment of the peasant slave labour), the memoirs of Nathan Sharansky, and 'The house by the Dvina' on the murder of the czar. In my social science classes I taught about racism and ethnic violence, and used the diaries of Zlata Filipovic and Nadja Halilbegovic about ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian War of 1992-1996. I find literature a great tool to teach historical and sociological concepts. I don't know many books about (women and) islam, but maybe 'the caged virgin' by ayaan hirsi ali could be interesting, or any fictional book about live in Afghanistan.

2. I notice similar problems. It doesn't matter if it's writing a paper, a plain e-mail or an essay, they don't know how to do it. The problem is noticed by all teachers, so hopefully the language section will work on this these coming years. I did decide however that next year I will deduct point for poor writing, for using sms-language and maybe teach a bit about how to write a proper e-mail. I feel that I missed this chance this past year by not saying anything about poor mails I received.

3. I love groupwork. I did a lot of group work during my first year of (student) teaching. This past year I hardly did any group work in history class, because I was teaching the class from hell that would (literally) beat each other up with the poles of the chairs. So. Better luck next year...

4. I realised that they need a really strong basis for this. Without really teaching the historical framework first, they cannot really discern the historical roots of current affairs. When I read this part of your post, I immediately had to think about your Oreo post. Imo this would be a GREAT discussion to end an American History class with.

Eric said...

this may be hard to write - I have a 3 yr old hanging on to my right arm tight.

Although not a teacher yet, writing papers is something I've thought about a lot in terms of making it mandatory in my future class. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much coordination between the English and History departments of many schools. I think it is somewhat silly that schools don't take advantage of having a student write a history paper and have it graded by both the history and the English teacher; by the history teacher for content and by the English teacher for format, spelling, and grammatical errors. Excellent opportunity for two grades out of one paper.

How's this for ideas for a paper? Have the student consider what they want to be when they "grow up" and write a short paper about the history of that profession or job or whatever. Most kids don't see the need for learning history, but if they see in the context of what they will be doing when they grow up they may become more interested in it. Anyone who wants to be really good at what they do, studies the history of that profession to improve themselves.

Yeah, I know, I know...Shut up you neophyte (or young padawan - if you're a Star Wars freak). I'll get back in my box now.

Teacher said...

I think the writing and literature component is so important in subject areas. We are starting to push it big time here in the elementary schools and I always assumed high schools everywhere did as well. I am glad that you will be giving your students so much help!