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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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