As a secondary educator, I have taught English in the middle and high school for my entire career. Working with students in speaking, listening, reading, and writing is my vocation, and it is what I have done more than anything in the classroom. Teaching students to communicate more effectively never gets old. Though my tenure is long, every year I am inspired to explore new themes, try new technology, and learn new methods in the student-centered experience. This work continues to reward me, year after year.
I begin every year with low stakes writing, such as journaling and written discussions. In these discussions, I offer students an authentic audience and a real purpose for writing about literature and current events. Though I call it low stakes writing, it may be the highest stakes writing for the students because it is for an audience of their peers. Whichever, it gives them an opportunity to propose new ideas, to flesh out alternative arguments, and to engage literature in writing organically. Soon, that writing becomes their writing to show learning, which is always richer after some written discussion to get it started.
My classroom writing instruction was most powerfully impacted by two entities, the Bread Loaf School of English, and the Hoosier Writing Project (Indiana affiliate of the National Writing Project). At the Bread loaf School of English, instructors and researchers like Dixie Goswami, Andrea Lunsford, Jackie Jones-Royster, and Margery Sabin gave me space and instruction for deep growth in a graduate school setting. Through the Hoosier Writing Project, I learned to perpetuate an inclusive environment of writers throughout the state and in many classrooms. I am grateful to people like Mary Nicolini and Stephen Fox as well as many other fellow teachers from around the state of Indiana with whom I share techniques and practices that work well in the classroom. This community of fellow riders and writing instructors has been a wonderful asset over the course of my career.
Showcase portfolios have always been a part of my instruction. I believe having a final product that showcases students’ work is a valuable asset and an opportunity for reflection. It is reflection on one’s work in the end that can help one see their own growth. Whether it is a manila folder, a diy website, or an account with Portfolium, I invite students to showcase their work for a public audience. If they do not wish to create one for a public audience, then for their own reflection, I encourage them to see their growth as writer writers.
Instruction in Reading Literature
As a teacher of reading, it is a part of my everyday instruction. I try to pass on what I love about reading, and I often do that through discussing it, writing about it, and publishing about it. I enjoy engaging students about literature. I try to create a student centered classroom, where students enter into a dialogue with the author. I encourage annotation in one’s books. I believe reading pulp books allows one to thumb through pages nonlinearly and that allows successful mapping of the story in their mind. Reading great literature can be work at times, but the dividends it pays are long lasting.
Instruction in Reading Periodicals
When I was a student in high school, I was an extemporaneous speaker for our speech competition team. For that I read time US news and Newsweek magazine, and I enjoyed that reading very much. Now that I am a teacher teaching reading and writing, I endorse scholastics up front magazine. It is written at Alex I’ll level that is approachable for all secondary students. And, students can read articles about the world that have benefited from the editorial control of the New York Times, and they can eat they can engage those texts through activities I create and Taylor for them. I find this to be a stimulating practice of short but important reading. It is much like the reading I did in high school, and that reading has built my context, my frame of reference for being a citizen of the world in the twenty first century.
Speaking & Listening
Verbal and oral instruction comes daily in my classroom. We take for granted the speaking and listening that we do day in and day out. I begin by modeling appropriate speech and listening to students individual opinions every day of the week. This practice has become more difficult with the quarantine of COVID-19, but through class conferences one can still model appropriate listening and speaking with students on a regular basis in large groups. I also believe that presentations and small group learning are still possible in the electronic environment. It just takes more work and more set up to make it work.