Category Archives: Reflections on the Danielson Framework

These include reflections on the four domains of the Danielson Framework for Teaching. I shall share my reflections for all components in one post per domain.

Reflections on Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

4a.  Reflecting on Teaching

As I look back on this 2012-2013 school year, I can see some things that really worked for me and for my students, and I will not be changing those.  For example:

~ Working in cooperative groups for various units.   This tends to work better at the enriched level as opposed to the regents because the enriched kids tend to be more focused and not quite as chatty about things non-related to the task at hand.   As we did close reading of materials, I found that some weaker students benefited from having a strong reader in the group to kind of lead them along.   Quite often I heard phrases like, “How’d you come up with that?” and “Show me where you got that cuz I ain’t seein’ it.”  

~ Using Visible Thinking Exercises.  This technique has been the single greatest tool I have gotten in the past several years through Professional Development.  I wish I had been introduced to it much earlier!   Using these exercises helps to focus writing, especially the See/Think/Wonder exercise for coming up with Concrete Details (CDs) and Commentary (CMs) for writing.  Students become more observant while examining paintings/photographs/music videos/film clips, and they begin to look for less obvious details as the year progresses.  This skill is transferred to close reading as we examine specific passages from text.   The regents students did it with articles about migrant farm workers, as well as articles relating to Roosevelt’s New Deal in the first quarter when we read Of Mice and Men.  During that time, the enriched students were working with Every Bone Tells a Story, and each group did close readings relating to a particular hominid.  When all classes were working with The Odyssey in some form in the second quarter, students examined passages of the poetry, or analyzed Homeric similes.   Both levels were also given speeches from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to analyze closely, and the enriched kids had to analyze and memorize a 20 line piece from one of Shakespeare’s other plays.  And we use the Visible Thinking technique with Frankenstein (9E) and Plato’s “Apology” (9R) in the fourth quarter.

~ Every Bone Tells a Story as a non-fiction work for English 9 Enriched.    I love how the book was divided into the four hominins, and then each section was divided into: Discoveries (Expository Writing), Deductions (Research), and Debates (Persuasive Writing).  Each group worked with each of the three types of writing as it pertained to their assigned hominid.   This worked very, very well at the beginning of the year as I was introducing the different types of writing that we would be doing during the rest of the year.   Since I plan to keep using this book, I hope that the district can find the funds to purchase copies for the students instead of me having to ask them to buy the books themselves.

~ Plato’s “Apology” and Evidence-Based Claims.  Ok, I have to admit that I dragged my heels on this one, but only by trying it out would I really have the right to complain (hence, following the PARCC framework for the first quarter?).  I was actually surprised at how much the worksheets reflected work that I was already doing with my students.  The Forming Evidence Based Claims worksheet is actually a version of See/Think/Wonder, while the Organizing Evidence Based Claims worksheet asks kids to create a thesis statement with two signposts (something I’d already taught them earlier in the year).   While I would not change teaching it, I WILL do this in the beginning of the year with students and use the worksheets consistently (I found they work well for literature as well because I used them with Frankenstein in the enriched classes).

Things that I will change:

~ no PARCC framework next year.  It’s too much work for a single teacher to keep up with. 

~ “Apology” will be moved to the beginning of the year, followed by short stories.  I began the year with Of Mice and Men, and I really didn’t like the flow.  However, I had been following the PARCC, so I jumped right into a full-length text.  It would have been a better transition to do the Evidence-Based Claims with Plato first, and then transfer that skill to a full-length research project instead of the other way around; however, in my defense, the Plato unit wasn’t available in September.

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4b.  Maintaining accurate records

One tool that helps with maintaining accurate records of dates and times of when work was turned in is the online website that I have for each classroom.  From my own funds, I purchased five networking classroom websites from Spruz.com.  Each class is held privately, meaning that no one may join in or visit the website unless he/she is a member approved by me.  I maintain the highest privacy allowances on the site in an attempt to insure student internet safety, and no one may join the site using a made-up screen name.  This is so that I know exactly who is responsible for posting anything on the site.  When an assignment is completed online, it is dated and time-stamped, so I know exactly when it was done.  There is no argument about late assignments with this tool. 

I also make use of the Infinite Campus grade book online.  Parents may see grades on the portal and keep track of their child’s progress.  I have both positive and negative reactions to this.  On the positive side, parents can see what a child is missing and encourage him/her to turn the work in, or if the child does poorly on a quiz, the parent can intervene with the child.  On the flip side, some parents check the portal constantly and question grading practices for every little point in an attempt to raise their child’s grades. 

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4c.  Communicating with families

All information about the course is sent to the parents over the summer so that they are informed about what their child can expect.  I send expectations, supplies lists, and a list of reading materials for the upcoming school year.

Most frequently, I communicate with families via email.  This gives me an electronic record of the communication, and I always include Mr. McBride (as English Department Supervisor) and the student’s house office administrator in the conversation.   I send emails for significantly late work, failing averages at the halfway point in a quarter, or missing work, and I make suggestions for how a student may improve his/her grade.  I also send emails when a struggling student has improved as a motivation for continued improvement.  If a parent does not respond to my email I follow with a phone call and log the call on Infinite Campus. 

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4d.  Participating in a professional community

I serve as a member of the Webster School District Policy Board where we work to design and bring about meaningful professional development opportunities for our teachers.  Our biggest push this year has been for putting together Creative Collaborations where teachers can work together on a common goal.

I participate in a PLC with another 9th grade English teacher, but I also discuss curriculum and other school business with other teachers as well.

For the past three years, I have served the school as the head yearbook advisor, maintaining accurate financial records and helping students and my co-advisor create a quality product.  I have also served as a ski club chaperone for the past eight years, and I was a class advisor for three years from 2007-2010.   Our committee planned the 2008 Junior Prom and the 2009 Senior Ball.

This will be the fifth year that my students will have published an anthology of short stories that follow the Hero’s Journey pattern outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Each year, the short story project dovetails one of the units that we have worked with.  In the 2008-2009 school year, we read real-life stories of heroes.  Because of the popularity of the television show Heroes at the time, we patterned our story after the television show by giving ordinary people super-powers and creating our own superhero tales in In The Footsteps…  In 2009-2010, we read Douglas Adams’ The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul in which humans created immortal characters/gods in their cultures and then later forgot about them.  Because the characters were immortal and could not die, they became the forgotten and lonely street-people.  Our task was to “rescue” an immortal by taking the time to learn and tell the story of a student-created immortal who was on the brink of being forgotten forever in We Remember…  During the 2010-2011 school year, we read The Hobbit, and so students created quest tales that included a long journey.  The culmination of that project was Forged Through Trials.  Last year’s project was also inspired by a television series and went with our Cultural Mythology unit.  In the spirit of Once Upon a Time, students selected a myth or fairy tale and modernized it.  The end result was Altered Reflections.  Each book was published online and is currently available worldwide.  This was the project followed by the Joseph Campbell Foundation that led to my participation in the international Symposium on Mythology.  This year’s project surrounds a non-fiction work, Every Bone Tells a Story.    Students selected one of the four anthropological discoveries from the text, and they researched the region/culture in which the person may have lived.  From there, they are putting flesh on the bones and creating stories for the hominins.  Lapedo Child and Turkana Boy might have rite of passage tales or a coming of age story.  Kennewick Man might have a long-journey story, while Ice Man just might be a murder mystery.  All might include Land of the Dead tales.  The possibilities are many, so students have the opportunity to be creative all the while honing their research skills as the settings must reflect the region and ancient culture.   The students then vote on the top stories to be included in the anthology.   At the end of the project, I present the students’ published work at the 9th grade awards ceremony, and we have a book signing celebration in the school library, complete with a cake bearing the book’s cover.

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4e.  Growing and developing professionally

I am a member of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, which correlates with my work in teaching cultural mythology and The Hero’s Journey to my students.  In 2012, I was selected to present at an international Symposium on Mythology in Santa Barbara, California about the work I have done with my enriched students over the years, particularly the long-term short story project that we do annually, which culminates in the publication of an anthology.  As a result of my presentation, the Joseph Campbell Foundation has asked me to serve as one of the lead teachers on a committee that will create an international curriculum on mythology to be funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

I have taken advantage of the Webster Central School District’s professional development offering on Visible Thinking activities in the classroom.  This practice has really added depth to my classroom discussions and to student sharing/writing.  There are examples of Visible Thinking exercises posted for your perusal. 

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4f.  Demonstrating professionalism

I work hard to maintain my integrity in my chosen profession.  I take my charge to educate students very seriously, and I am consistent in my dealings with students.  While I may be strict, I believe that I am extremely fair and that I do whatever is necessary to see students succeed. 

I offer credit recovery options for students who are missing work.  Because I believe that all assignments are important and should be completed, I have given students “incomplete” grades on report cards until all work has been done. 

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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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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.

During the summer of 2012, I did a lot of work studying the PARCC framework in anticipation of it being adopted by New York State.  I also wanted to see how well the framework would fit our schedule, our curriculum, and our classes.  I did the entire first quarter step-by-step according to the PARCC framework, and found it to be something that individual students MIGHT be able to be successful at (if they were already proficient writers), but certainly NOT realistic from a feedback/grading perspective.  In one quarter, I read and graded (not to my usual scale) over TWO THOUSAND pieces of writing because I followed the PARCC framework to the letter.  I was exhausted, and the feedback was NOT what I have been able to provide in the past.  Imagine how thankful I was to learn that New York decided NOT to go with the PARCC framework for its schools!!  I dropped it in the 2nd quarter.

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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.

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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), 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) than are necessary with the Enriched students.   I also teach an abridged poetry version of The Odyssey to the Regents students, while my Enriched students read a full-length prose version.   I choose the poetry version for the Regents kids to help prepare them for when we read Shakespeare (which is primarily in poetry).

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1d. Demonstrating knowledge of resources

For each class, I purchase (out of my own pocket) five separate Spruz websites for online class assignments.  I maintain and weekly update these websites while also monitoring student performance on the online assessments.

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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Reflections on Domain 3: Instruction

3a.  Communicating with students

At the beginning of a new unit, students are given a calendar and a schedule of due dates for homework, tests/quizzes, and classroom activities.  In this way, students can organize their own schedules and plan to have work competed on time.  Also, in the event of an absence, students know what has to be made up. 

Students are also given a study packet for each unit as well.   These packets include: introductory information pertinent to the unit, vocabulary word lists, reading/study questions, literary analysis questions, and any supplementary materials that we may need in the unit (poems, stories, articles, worksheets, etc).  All of my unit packets look alike, so students come to know where to find certain materials in them.   The expectation is that all study questions will be answered in 3-5 varied sentences (as a way to improve the development of a response) that include a properly cited embedded quotation from the text (as support).

My quiz formats are all alike as well throughout the year.  Keeping quizzes in a familiar format creates a sense of comfort in the students as there are no surprises.  All reading quizzes are comprised of ten multiple-choice questions (text-based and also related to literary analysis) and three short responses (taken directly from the homework questions).  I tell students that the homework is a dry run for the quiz.  The better job they do on the homework, the better it will stick in their memories as they answer the same questions on the quizzes. 

All vocabulary quizzes also follow a similar format: I read the definition, and students write the appropriate word and spell it correctly.  Students earn ten points for appropriate, correctly spelled words.  Five points are given to responses that are 1-2 letters off in spelling (including a capital letter for what are not proper nouns), and anything more than 2 letters off is marked wrong.  Students are often given bonuses of past vocabulary words or using the words in complete sentences that demonstrate they know what the word means. 

By being upfront with students about quizzes and keeping up with the schedules in the study packets, this helps to alleviate the stress of wondering what’s coming next.  I give as much advance notice for all assignments as possible to allow students to adapt to their personal schedules, which include sports, music and other activities.

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3b. Using questioning and discussion techniques

I ask higher level questions both on quizzes and in the classroom.  I want students to be able to back their responses up with textual evidence, so I follow their answers with, “So how do you know?”  or “What makes you say that?”  Also, when a student responds to a question, I ask others to add to the response.

Students also work in cooperative groups throughout the year.   I mix up the groups so that they get to work a unit with everyone in the class at least once.  I pose questions to each group, and they work together to come up with an answer, which they then present to the rest of the class.  This works especially well with the literary analysis questions that I give in each unit.  For example, during the Shakespeare unit, I divided a list of twelve questions among the six groups.  This allowed the groups to focus in on two particular literary devices in depth (because was group was responsible for only two questions).  When a group presented to the class, the listeners were responsible for writing down what they heard.  During the presentations, I would interject with, “And….” or “Soooo…” or “But…” and students would then elaborate on their responses.  This continued until the question had been thoroughly answered.  By the time we were finished, each student had an answer to all of the questions. 

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3c. Engaging students in learning

For some assignments, I allow students to create the questions from the reading.  I tell them that the questions have to be text-based, but without obvious, fact-level, “point to it” answers.  We work on inferencing with the reading to create higher level thinking questions.  For example, when the enriched students worked with Every Bone Tells a Story (a non-fiction piece they’d read over the summer) during quarter one, they were placed into cooperative groups (one for each of the four hominins discussed in the text).  Each group had a series of tasks to perform, including creating study questions for their assigned section of the book.

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3d. Using assessment in instruction

I followed the categories of the PARCC framework for my grade book categories this year.  They are as follows:

Reading (30%):  This section includes all reading tests/quizzes and homework assignments;

Analysis (20%):  This section includes literary analysis essays, critical thinking writing assignments done online (Reader Response Questions), and literary analysis questions from the units;

Research (20%):  This section includes all the steps of the research process for the main research paper, as well as smaller research projects throughout the year;

Routine Writing (10%):  This section includes journal writing in response to Visible Thinking exercises as well as any writing exercises we do involving grammar/sentence structure;

Narrative Writing (10%):  This section includes personal responses to literature or Visible Thinking exercises in their journal, as well as the enriched short story project and the 60 Day Sojourn done online in conjunction with the Hero’s Journey lessons;

Vocabulary Work (10%):  This section includes the Greek or Latin Root of the Week posting done on the classroom websites as well as all vocabulary quizzes for the unit.

Students are able to monitor their own progress via the Parent Portal online.

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3e. Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness

I have made it my practice to eat lunch in my classroom in order to be available for students on a regular basis.  They can come to me during period 5 for make-up quizzes, to ask questions, or to seek help with homework/assignments. 

In the event of a student struggling with material, I have been willing to work with that student to help him/her succeed.   I gave a “medical incomplete” on a report card to accommodate a student who suffered from the flu at the end of the second quarter so that he wouldn’t feel stressed in trying to catch up in his missed work.  I have also extended deadlines to students who come to me and ask for help. 

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