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One of the most profound statements a teacher ever made to me went something like this: ‘I keep getting older, but they will always be 16. I’m trying to deal with that.’
Geesh! Let’s dissect that.
When I started teaching at 26, I was only 8 years older than my oldest student, and Facebook was a big deal. Now, “Facebook is for old people,” (yes, sadly that is a direct quote), and there are so many mediums to keep up with that I’ve given up. If I scroll too quickly on Instagram, it gives me a slight headache, and I have yet to appreciate recording a video that will disappear (Snapchat).
In contrast, I’ve watched students viciously scroll through Instagram with the appearance of processing everything they deem important. Being “Instagram Famous” is actually a thing, and Twitter has the power to make CEOs apologize and Pepsi pull ads. But in many classrooms, sit-and-get continues to reign supreme, technology is forbidden, and students are still handwriting essays.
In a world where apps are created by 10-year-olds, a businessman is president, and 130 characters can change the lives of many, our students need interactive, dynamic, and thought-provoking lessons that mirror their lives. Technology should be the rule, not the exception. That said, it may be time to evaluate your methods. If you are wondering if you are functioning in prehistoric times, check out my list below.
Take a Closer Look
#1) Consider that if students are taking too long to type, it is probably because no one allows or requires them to, which is problematic because typing is a necessary part of many professions. Additionally, if students are handwriting essays, that means you are wagging stacks of essays around as opposed to giving feedback electronically that students can always access.
#2) To be fair, if you are reading this article at work, you are off task. Also, how often do you get off task in department meetings? The truth of the matter is that the purpose of the group is to build community, teach cooperation, build skills, and to interact. The goal should not be to make students sit and whisper. I don’t know about you, but if I have to whisper in a group, I’d rather not participate.
Try this: place students in work stations with specific goals and time constraints. While they may not be on task the entire time they are working, they will achieve great things when they have parameters.
#3) There is always a reason to have a phone or electronic device out. ALWAYS. I have a friend who Googles everything we talk about. Her phone is at the ready for anything that may need clarity… She’s a lawyer.
My point is, there are purposes for phones in class other than annoying or ignoring the teacher. As educators, we just have to explore reasons for students to use their devices. In doing so, we make it much easier for them to put their phones away when asked.
#4) Google runs the world. There are many apps to support interactive learning. Teachers can create quizzes, share documents, and more. For more information about Google Classroom, click here.
#5) As a mother of a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old, engagement is always coupled with loud, rowdy, rambunctious behavior. In fact, when those things aren’t happening, someone has a fever. Now, to be fair, we obviously have behavior expectations in the learning environment that are different than home behaviors. However, it is unfair to children to expect that they sit quietly for extended periods of time. As a teacher, I enjoyed how “rowdy” they became because I could tell that they were really into what we were doing. What’s more, when I assessed them later, the overall proficiency of the class was far better after “rowdy” activities than when we were totally silent and working independently.
#6) This is not actually a thing. As educators, we should always be learning, otherwise, we cannot teach and prepare our students for their future. It’s like the student who says, “I’m not used to doing homework,” or the one who says, “my mom isn’t good at math either.” These statements are just excuses.
What You Can Do
There are many ways to step out of the time warp and incorporate modern day learning into your classroom. And while it may feel a little overwhelming at first, it will definitely prove beneficial to both you and your students.
If you are a teacher dinosaur, here are some things you might try:
- Use alternative formative assessments. This will increase engagement and create an interactive classroom.
- Step out of your comfort zone.
- Plan with purpose. Ask yourself, where can I incorporate technology in my lesson plan? If daily feels like too much starting out, try to include something every other day.
- Look into Google. There are many options available.
- Team up with someone who regularly includes technology. Plan together so you have ideas for ways to spruce up your classroom.
The teacher I quoted at the beginning of this post made a very valid point. As we mature in our profession, our children are always the same age. That, in and of itself, requires great adaptation on our part. When we fail to adapt to the needs and/or interests of our students, we miss the mark. As the professionals, our kids deserve our best efforts, even when it takes us out of our comfort zones.
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Teaching students to analyze anything can be a daunting task. So when students have to make sense of all of the characters in a short story or novel, and THEN analyze them, the frustration can reach a boiling point for both the teacher and the student. To mitigate these frustrations, graphic organizers can be a tremendous help.
In the classroom, I remember all of the organizers my students had to create by hand as I drew them on the board. Then, using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, we would walk through them so that students could really flesh out their characters and ideas, and support that with evidence from the text. Once we were able to do all of that, we were ready for the hard part – writing the analysis.
Today, I have eliminated much of the frustration by creating an Analyzing Characters Organizer Pack.
Included, are 6 graphic organizers, a table of contents with instructions on how to use each, directions on using the Gradual Release Model of Responsibility, the Common Core Standards the activities are aligned with, AND learning targets.
The activities can be used for any secondary ELA classroom. There are a variety of ways to use the organizers including whole-class, independent practice, small groups, or stations.
If you are looking for an engaging way to teach students how to analyze characters, check it out. I found that once students were given opportunities to practice the skill in different ways, the outcome was increased engagement and greater achievement.
Common Core Standards are rigorously robust. Each standard is so layered, that there are many things a student needs to master in order to be proficient with the standard. As a result, there are a multitude of ways to assess student proficiency for each standard. When looking for ways to teach the standards, it is important that teachers know how to break the standard down, turn it into learning targets, and assess it in every way possible to ensure proficiency.
Consider the picture above. In order to adequately teach a standard, a teacher must first understand the purpose of the terms and the roles they play. Here I have created an example breaking down an ELA Common Core Standard:
RL.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
The Learning Targets
- I will be able to determine a central idea of a text.
- I will be able to analyze the development of a central idea over the course of the text.
- I will be able to analyze how a central idea emerges over the course of the text.
- I will be able to analyze how a central idea is shaped over the course of the text.
- I will be able to analyze how a central idea is refined by specific details in the text.
- I will be able to provide an objective summary of the text.
The Question Stems
- What is the central idea of the text?
- What is the main idea?
- Which of the following events support the development of the central idea over the course of the text?
- Cite textual evidence to support development of the theme over the text.
- What key details from the text shape and refine the central idea over the course of the text?
- Write an objective summary of the text?
- Which of the following is an objective summary of the text?
- Analyze the central idea and its development ove rthe course of the text.
In order to adequately teach this standard, it is important that there are several learning activities tailored to each individual target. Furthermore, formative assessments must be as varied as the learning targets. If you are looking for ways to expand your resources, try Googling Common Core ELA Question Stems. What you will find is that there are several places where you can download question stems for each standard, at each grade level. Remember, it is not until you teach AND assess students on all parts of the standard that you truly understand their level of mastery.