Category Archives: Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Domain 2 of the Danielson Framework for Teaching: Classroom Environment

Reflections on Domain 2: Classroom Environment

2a. Creating an environment of respect and rapport

On the first day of class, I give students a course expectations sheet.  On it, I outline classroom procedures, materials/supplies needed, class rules, grading and assessment practices, and a list of units of study for the year.  I also include contact information for parents and students alike. 

One thing that I absolutely insist upon in my classroom is that we all respect one another.  I do not allow teasing or bullying of any kind, and I when I hear kids “joking” with one another in what may be considered a disrespectful way, I make students apologize to one another.  As part of classroom respect, I insist that gentlemen do not wear hats indoors, undergarments are UNDER clothing, electronics are where I cannot see them, and food is left in the cafeteria. 

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2b. Establishing a culture for learning

Once students know what to expect, I have very few discipline problems.  I keep students on task by asking questions pertaining to the reading/task at hand whenever they seem to be veering on to another path. 

I display their work around the room, particularly their creative work.   I have posted pictures of the posters they have created (and may refer back to as needed when they are hanging up), as well as the “Who’s Who” masks/posters in The Odyssey.   I also display the Visible Thinking exercises for the unit so that we may refer back to things they may have seen or thought about earlier in the unit.

I have a specific shelf for each class’ journals, as well as reference materials around the room for them to use (dictionaries, thesauri, etc).   When a student asks me what something means, they have come to know that my response to them will be, “Get thee to a dictionary.”  

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2c. Managing classroom procedures

Kids know that we have set routines for group work, their packets are set up in a similar fashion, their vocabualry quizzes follow a specific format, as do their reading quizzes.  I create this routine so that they become comfortable in knowing what is coming.  When they see their journals on their desks, they know that we are doing a Visible Thinking exercise.  When they trade papers for peer grading, they know automatically that they have to have a red pen and put their name in the lower right-hand corner.  They also know that they are expected to have the MLA heading on every piece of work that comes in for a grade, and that the heading is checked by peers during written/vocab quizzes. 

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2d. Managing student behavior

If students know what to expect, then there are very few surprises.  The fewer surprises, the more comfortable they seem with a routine, and classes run smoothly.

I expect that students will refer to me as Ms Woodward, and not simply as “Woodward.”  I also expect that they will respect my boundaries and work space just as I respect theirs.  That means that students may not simply walk up to my desk and help themselves to anything they find (such as a writing utensil or a stapler).   I remind them that I would never come up to their desk to help myself, so they may not do so with my desk.  Students seem to understand and respect this guideline.

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2e. Organizing physical space

I change the configuration of my room quite frequently.  While I begin the year in rows (better for me to learn their names from a seating chart), I do form various sized groups for each unit, depending up on how many groups I need.  For Every Bone Tells a Story, I needed four groups, one for each hominid.   When I moved on to The Odyssey, I used eight groups because of the wide array of cultural mythology we were using.   In the third quarter, we were in six groups for Romeo and Juliet; three pairs of feuding families.   In the 4th quarter, we have paired rows where students “go head to head” with a partner.  I mixed students up during the year so that they had the opportunity to work with as many people in the class as possible.

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Filed under Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Reflections on the Danielson Framework

English 9 Enriched: Parody- Young Frankenstein

How could I ignore Mel Brooks’ classic parody?

Similar to what we did with the creation scenes from the 1931 Universal film and the 1994 Kenneth Branagh version, we watched two video clips, did a SEE/THINK/WONDER for each one, discussed comparisons/contrasts, and then had a short writing assignment.

These are the two clips from Young Frankenstein (1974).

The first depicts Gene Wilder (as Victor Frankenstein) and Peter Boyle (as the Creature) doing a tap dance to “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”  What I want the students to see is the parody of how people become afraid of the creature and also how the creature comes to loathe people who treat him badly.

The second clip is when the Creature (Peter Boyle) comes upon the house of a blind priest (Gene Hackman), and the priest unsuccessfully tries to offer his guest some hospitality.   I want students to make the connection to the blind man in the hovel where the creature has been spying on and learning from the family that lives there.

 

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched, Visible Thinking

English 9 Enriched: Visible Thinking- Frankenstein’s Creation

Students will be evaluating film techniques as well as comparing and contrasting film to text.  for the Visible Thinking part of the exercise, we will watch two different film interpretations of the creation scene in Frankenstein.    They will be looking for a total of ten things they notice (See) in each clip; however, they have to find two in each of the following categories: Characterization, Lighting, Set Design, Sound/Music, Costumes/Make-Up.

The first is from the Universal Films 1931 production starring Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein (notice the name change) and Boris Karloff as the creature (on a side note, Boris Karloff’s– whose real name was William Henry  Pratt– great grand-nephew lives here in Rochester).

NOTE: the YouTube link is to one person’s channel, and the videos all play when going to this link.  The one I used in class is the four minute piece at clip 3.  I am saving Gene Wilder for when we do parody!

The second is from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as Victor Frankenstein, with Robert De Niro as the Creature.

After watching both clips, students shared what they saw in each of the five categories with a partner.  They then went on to write three things they THINK about how the clips reflect events in the novel, followed by three things they WONDER about how the clips reflect the events in the novel.  They must keep in mind as they write what they think and wonder that they are going to be asked to write a comparison/contrast piece for the film clips and the novel.

Students were then given two different colored Post-Its for SEE/THINK/WONDER; one color that related to the Universal film, and another for the Branagh version.   We then shared aloud and posted them in the front of the room on a large poster paper.  Once all students had the opportunity to share, we discussed the major similarities and differences between Hollywood and Shelley’s work.  They then went on to work on their writing pieces.

Alive

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched, Visible Thinking

English 9 Regents: Part II- Making Evidence Based Claims

After having the kids repeat the steps for paragraphs 3-6 of Plato’s “Apology” that they’d done for the first two paragraphs (RHA, paraphrase, answer questions, form EBC), we moved on to the next step in the process: MAKING Evidence Based Claims.

At first I struggled with how this was different from the FORMING Evidence Based Claims worksheet.  It seemed as if the whole thing was redundant, but it’s actually not.

In the first worksheet, students must come to a conclusion AFTER examining the text closely (“I see this; therefore, I am able to claim that.”)  The second worksheet asks the students to make two claims about what they have read first, and THEN go back to look for evidence to support the claims (“I claim this, and this supports what I think.”)   It’s a different type of thinking.

Here are two student examples:

Alyssa Making EBC Paragraph 3-6

Before Alyssa could fill in the claim section of the sheet, she had to think about what she had read.  Since we had done a Forming EBC sheet, she already had one claim in mind to work with.  However, by the time we got to this sheet, she had changed her claims.  These two claims are stronger than her original on her Forming EBC sheet (“Socrates trusts the Gods but finds himself questioning him in terms of him being the wisest or how his devotion to him limits him in life.  He is not most in repute but those who are happen to be way to full of themselves.”)  Her original claim was too wordy, and it was full of confusing pronoun usage.  I asked her to be more concise and precise in making her claims.  As you can see, she did make changes, and the claims are easier to support.

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Ethan Making EBC Paragraph 3-6

Before Ethan filled out this sheet, he had not made a claim on his Forming EBC worksheet; the sheet was blank.  Therefore, it gave him no starting point when attempting to make an EBC.  As a result, it is evident that he did not clearly understand what he’d read in those four paragraphs because Ethan claims that “Socrates is the wisest man.”  When pressed to support this claim, Ethan cites the Oracle’s response to the question of whether or not Socrates is the wisest man: “There is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43).  This is where both Ethan AND Socrates got confused.

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Socrates

I drew the little picture on the board (no artist am I), and then I asked the students, “Which of these do you suppose the Oracle really meant?”  and I let them argue a bit about it.  Then I told them what I thought it meant.  By interpreting the Oracle’s words to mean that since “there is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43), then Socrates must be the wisest man on earth, that is jumping to conclusions.  What both Socrates and Ethan need to learn is to really pay attention to the words that the Oracle used.   What Socrates later learned after going around and questioning different people and testing their wisdom against his and coming to the conclusion that these so-called wise people were no wiser than he was, and he did not consider himself at all wise, then there IS no man wiser than Socrates or any other man for that matter.   This kind of “taking things literally” and jumping to conclusions is actually the kind of thinking that this whole “Evidence Based Claims” unit is all about addressing.  I may not have been very pleased when I first saw the choice for this unit because I really thought that it was going to be too far above the heads of 9th graders.  After beginning to work with it, I am very happy to report that I do think this is an appropriate piece, and I will use it again in the future.

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After the students finished their Making Evidence Based Claims worksheets, the next class I gave each student two Post-It notes using two colors (one for “Claim” and one for “Evidence”).  I asked them to look over the Making EBC worksheet, and choose the stronger of the two claims they had made and write that claim on their pink Post-It.   Then they had to examine the three pieces of evidence they had found to support that claim, and choose the strongest piece of evidence they had and write that on the yellow Post-It.  Once they had both Post-Its filled out, we were ready to start.

I started by pulling one students name from the deck of 3×5 cards that I used throughout the year (These cards have their names, contact info, textbook numbers, and I keep track of who worked in what group and also what topics they had for research, what Shakespearean speech they memorized, etc).  This is an effective way for me to call on kids so that nobody zones out.  It’s also how I call on “volunteers” when no one raises a hand to answer a question.  Anyhow, after I called on the first student, he/she read the claim on their pink Post-It and stuck it under “Claim” on the front board.  I then asked, “OK, who has the same claim as ___?”  Those with the same claim came forward and put their Post-Its next to the one already on the board.  I then pulled another card, that claim was stuck below the last one.  I once again asked who had the same claim, and the entire process was repeated until everyone had a claim on the board.

Then it was time to deal with the evidence.  I read out loud Claim #1 and asked all those who’d made that claim to come forward with their evidence to support the claim (for the first one, five people made that claim, so I had there ended up being five pieces of evidence brought forward).  I had the students read their evidence to the class and post it on the board.  Once we heard all five pieces of evidence (two of them were repeats, so it actually boiled down to three different quotations), I asked the students to decide which of the evidence provided BEST supported the claim.  All those who believed that quote 1 was the best were sent to one corner of the room, those who voted for #2 went to another corner, and the same for quote 3.   I then began with group 1 and asked them to support WHY they thought that particular quotation was stronger than the other two.  Once I had two responses, I turned to the other groups and said, “Ok, go ahead and tell those folks why YOUR choice of quotation is stronger than theirs.”

For several of the claims, I noticed that we had huge crowds in the corners that had selected the most obvious statements as the strongest support.  For example, five students claimed that “Socrates believes he is not the wisest man.”   Of the evidence, one of the quotations was, “I know that I have no wisdom,” and most students voted that as the strongest piece of textual evidence.  When I asked them how they would expand on the quote to explain how it supports the claim, the best they could come up with was that Socrates came right out and said it.  When I told them that it does not leave much room for analysis to go with the obvious, it led to a pretty good argument… and it ended up being between students, not between me and students.   As we shared evidence, we also drew lines to connect particular quotes that could support one or more of the given claims.  By the time we finished, the board looked like this:

Making EBC Par 3-6

Ultimately what I am trying to do is to get kids to think before they choose quotes to add to their writing as support.  I have been telling them since September about the differences between grades of ground beef.  You can buy 70/30, 80/20, or 95/5.   All can be used to make meatloaf; however, when all is said and done, which pan of meatloaf is really going to end up more of a soggy mess from all the fat?  Everyone agreed that using 70/30 ground beef was going to produce more grease and a smaller meatloaf dinner for the family.   It’s still meatloaf, it’s still edible, but it just isn’t going to be the same, or as healthy, as the 95/5 variety.   That’s how I feel about how they go about choosing supporting evidence for their writing.  I have been saying all year, “Give me the meat, not the fat!”

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Filed under Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents, Visible Thinking

English 9 Enriched: Frankenstein- Forming Evidence-Based Claims

Because of how the Forming EBC worksheets seemed to be helping my Regents kids better organize their ideas (as opposed to how we had been doing the same activity earlier in the year in a journal…they must prefer worksheets), I decided to see the sheets might work with my Enriched kids and Frankenstein.

I had the kids read the four letter from Robert Walton at the beginning of the novel.  I then listed on the overhead several ideas surrounding Walton:  his dream, his willingness to sacrifice for others, his doubts, his education, his relationship with his sister, his relationship with others (besides his sister), his financial background, his resolve, and his loneliness.   These were from Prestwick House’s Activity Pack for Frankenstein.

I then instructed the kids to “go head to head” with their partner…or in one case, a group of three because we had an odd number (meaning that they had to turn their desks to face the person across the row from them so that they could talk face to face).   Once they were in place, I drew names for them to choose which of the ideas about Walton each pair wanted to work with.   The catch was that once a topic was chosen, it was off limits for the next pair.  In one class, we started at the beginning once all eight had been selected by the first groups.  That gave the kids in that particular class who were drawn last an opportunity to have some choice instead of being “stuck” like most last groups are.

Alpha 1 Forming EBC

Using a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet (like those in the Regents classes with Plato’s “Apology”), the partners had to argue and agree on what three pieces of textual evidence they were going to use to best support the idea they’d chosen.  Once they had their textual support, they had to explain why that detail was important to the topic.  Finally, they had to make a claim about Robert Walton’s character based on the evidence.

Delta 1 Forming EBC

These are some examples of student work:

 

Katie Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

In this, Katie is making the claim that Robert Walton is curious.  She also extends her claim with several points (signposts).  This is a very strong response.

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Brittany Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

Brittany is making the claim that Robert Walton is wealthy.  This is situational for the character, not a character trait (which is what was assigned).   She and her partner will have to go head-to-head once more to come up with a trait that is specific to Walton’s character based on the fact that he was a wealthy man.  She does state that “wealth wasn’t an important thing in his life,” so I will ask her and her partner to dig more into that idea.

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Melissa Fr Letters 1-4 EBC

Melissa claims that Robert Walton is compassionate and a loyal friend when she and her partner examined Robert Walton’s relationships with others.   She sites Robert Walton’s interactions with the stranger that has boarded his ship in the middle of the tundra.  She also offers points (signposts) to explain her claim.

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Next class, the students will use the information from these worksheets to write a paragraph characterizing one aspect of Robert Walton.  The “Claim” sentences will serve as the topic sentences for the paragraphs, the quotations will be the concrete details (CDs), and the “Connecting the Details” responses will serve as part of their commentary (CMs).

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched, Visible Thinking

English 9 Regents: Part I- Forming Evidence-Based Claims

Days 1-3 (Part I of the Odell unit):

Students independently read/highlighted/annotated (RHA-ed), and I had them paraphrase sentence-by-sentence,  the first two paragraphs of “Apology” by Plato.   I then posed three questions that they had to respond to using only information from the eleven sentences that they’d read.  All responses had to have textual evidence appropriately embedded and cited within them, and students had to explain their answers.  The questions asked were:

1.  What is Socrates accused of?

2.  How does Socrates make it clear that he is innocent?

3.  How does Socrates distinguish himself from other teachers?

After rating their responses (each question was out of 10 points), I returned their papers so that they could use them for the next activity.

We first went over a model of a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet that related to question 2 (the claim made on the model is: Socrates believes that he is innocent).   We looked at how the responder chose three pieces of textual evidence that seemed to go together, explained what he/she thought about each quotation, briefly discussed the connection, and then- finally- made a definite claim about the textual evidence.  I then had the students go head-to-head with a partner, and instructed half the class to work with the claims made in question 1 (above) and the other half to work with question 3.   This way, everyone had something tangible to work with that they had already put some thought into.

Using their paraphrases and responses to the questions, the students then filled out a Forming Evidence-Based Claims worksheet.

Brandon Forming EBC Paragraph 1-2

 

This is Brandon’s response to question three (How does Socrates distinguish himself from other teachers?).  He needs to work on making a stronger claim by telling us HOW, not just THAT Socrates is different.  However, his first two “thoughts” show promise for some decent support.  The third “thought” shows that he didn’t really get what Socrates was saying about teachers and being paid.  I will give Brandon this feedback that I am putting here, and then I will look for growth in his next Forming EBC worksheet for paragraphs 3-6.

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Robby Forming EBC Paragraph 1-2

This is Robby’s response to question 1 (What is Socrates accused of?).  In this claim, you can see that Robby takes the extra step of giving more than one thing that Socrates is accused of.   His claim has more “meat” to it than Brandon’s; however, his first choice of details to support the claim is taken out of context.  I will suggest that he stick to stronger textual evidence to better back up his claim.

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Just before they began work, I asked the students to examine the language in the left-hand column of the worksheet.  The first box tells them to “Find details” in the text.  This is something I have asked them to do all year, except that I used different phrasing.  In previous textual exercises (such as with Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech in Act I, scene iv of Romeo and Juliet), I had asked them to write down ten things they SEE in his speech (quotations) that reveal something about Mercutio’s character.  This is the same exercise using a preformed worksheet instead of just a list from 1-10 (I usually make them come up with ten details, share their ideas with a partner, and check off the things they have in common because those are usually the obvious details).  This worksheet asks for three.

The second box tells them to “Connect the details” and explain what they think about what they have selected.  I have also asked students to come up with three things they THINK about what they have seen/heard/read in any of the activities.   For the Romeo and Juliet exercise mentioned above, students had to come up with three things they thought about Mercutio’s character based on the text they selected.

The last box asks students to “Make a claim” about what they have written.  This is a variation of the final piece of a Visible Thinking activity that we have worked with all year… what the student WONDERS based on what he has read and thought.

Once I explained the worksheet as a SEE/THINK/WONDER exercise, the students had a much easier time determining what it was that they were supposed to put in the boxes.   Also, because we have done this exercise routinely throughout the year, I saw fairly strong responses as opposed to the ones in the model provided by Odell.

Based on the correlations above, it is my claim that whoever created this worksheet has some training or background in Visible Thinking activities.

 

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Filed under Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents, Visible Thinking

English 9 Regents: Power in a Blank Sheet of Paper– An Anti-Bullying Exercise

First of all, I want to admit that I got the idea for this exercise from a teacher on FaceBook.  Secondly, I want to say that this was probably the most powerful lesson in Symbolism that I have ever given in my 15 years of teaching, and I intend to use this from now on to introduce the concept.

I teach 9th grade English, and I’ve been working using Visible Thinking tactics to better reach my students.  As a lead in to the short story “The Scarlet Ibis” by James Hurst, I wanted to find an exercise that would teach students about the power of symbolism in literature.   Who says that FaceBook has no value other than social networking?

I had students take out their writing journals and a clean sheet of paper.  In the journals, they had to put the heading “Symbolism” at the top.  They were then instructed to look closely at the clean sheet of paper sitting on their desks and to write (in the journals) anything that they saw about the paper.  They had to preface the notes with “I see…”.  I then asked them to preface a few sentences with “I think…” as they continued to look at the blank sheet of paper.  The kids looked at me like I was nuts, but they wrote in their journals anyway.

As soon as they finished writing, I told them to take the sheet of paper and crumple it up.  They could stomp on it, they could pound it, they could bite it… but they just could not tear it in any way.  That they got into.  Kids were balling up the sheets, throwing them on the floor and jumping on them.  One put the wad of paper into his mouth and chewed on it (I had to tell him to be careful about ripping it).  Then I had them put the wadded paper on the desk in front of them and repeat the writing exercise.  They had to preface each section with “I see…” and “I think…”.  They seemed to have more to say this time because it took them a bit longer to do the writing piece.

Once they finished that, I asked them to very, very carefully (so as not to rip it) unfold the crumpled ball and flatten it out as best they could.  While they were doing that, I instructed them to say, “I’m sorry” to the piece of wadded up paper.  Ok, so some kids got silly with it and started kissing the paper while apologizing, but they managed to get them opened up without tears.  Some were trying to use the edge of their desks to run the paper along it to try to flatten it.  Once they were ready, I had them repeat the writing exercise, prefacing with “I see…” and “I think…”, but this time I added the extra component of “I wonder…”.

After they finished that portion of the exercise, they then had to write their own definition of Symbolism… whatever they thought that Symbolism meant.   As a sign that they were completely done writing, I told them to hold their symbols high in the air (the pieces of paper).   When all students had the papers over their heads, I told them to now hold the paper right in front of their face and look at it while I talked.

As they looked at their papers filled with creases and footprints and, in some cases, saliva, I told them that they were looking at a symbol of a bullied person.    The creases in the paper symbolized the effects of bullying, and even though the paper was still whole and as completely usable as its unmarred counterparts still in the notebook, it will never be exactly as it was before it was crumpled.   I told them to remember that even though they said, “I’m sorry” to the paper as they were unfolding it, no amount of apologies could take away the scars left behind.  The creases may lesson over time, but they will never fully go away… much like the hateful behavior left behind by bullies.  Unkind words and brutal actions leave their mark, even if the one who did it says, “I’m sorry”, or “I was just kidding…”.   Kids sometimes just do not realize the power of words, especially negative ones.

I then asked them to write on the crumpled sheets of paper about the exercise.  I wanted them to write once more, “I see…”, “I think…”, and “I wonder…” after they were told about the meaning of the symbols.  I also asked them to not only explain how the exercise was carried out, but to write about the effectiveness of symbolism based on this exercise.

As I explained this, some kids laughed.  Some kids got very quiet and then hurriedly picked up their pens and started writing when prompted.  Some put their crumpled papers down and just looked lost in thought for a bit.

One in particular hung his head down, staring at the blank paper.  It was a boy who had been bullied by many of those same kids sitting in that room at the moment, and I’d had all four administrators come to the room to address the issue.  Of course, I’d made sure that the young man was not in the room at the time they came in.    I knew going into the exercise that this was going to impact him, but I felt it was an important lesson, especially the part about still being whole in spite of the creases.   I also asked the students to carefully fold up the pieces of paper and put them in their pockets to take with them and to look at from time to time throughout the day.  That one boy was very meticulous about folding his paper and putting it in the pocket of his binder.  I also asked that they share the exercise with their parents and ask them to sign the paper so that they could be returned to me the next day.

Bullying 1Bullying 2

I have been holding onto these signed pieces of paper for five months.  Many may have forgotten about the exercise, so I will remind them when I return the pages to them before Spring Break.

All in all, I felt that it was a very powerful exercise.  Sometimes people don’t realize just how much power their unkind words can carry… and now I hope that some will make that connection and stop the crumpling.  Even if only a couple of kids got the message, that’s a couple fewer potential bullies for the time being.

I hope and I pray, though, that there will be a whole lot fewer for life.

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Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, English 9 Regents, Visible Thinking