Posted in Teaching Techniques

Student Run Lessons

If you’ve gotten this far, it means that you’re reading my blog post. If the title of the post has freaked you out a little, please don’t run away from this post. Take a couple of minutes and actually read it. It’s probably not as scary as you might be imagining it to be.

I firmly believe that sometimes students learn better when their peers teach them. Sometimes they just need that jolt of something new, a fresh perspective, a more relatable teacher. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with this, and that we should be open to the idea of student taught lessons.

To be clear, I do not imagine this as a free for all, nor do I view it as a decision to simply not teach that particular day. In my head there are multiple and important steps to this process.

  1. I think it’s best to introduce this idea to students when they are starting a new book or unit. The introduction is important because you might have a group of students who really don’t want to do this. Please don’t force students to participate in student run lessons if they are truly resistant to the idea.
  2. Provide students with a guideline and/or template of what you want them to do. They’ve never taught a course before (presumably), and they need guidelines. And just as importantly, you need to maintain a level of control.
  3. Proof and review their lessons before they teach! This step is very important. Students might not have done the assignment correctly. They might need some guidance. You might want to collaborate with them. Don’t assume that they’re on track – check!
  4. On the days students are teaching, you should still be the one to start class. Let students know what the day holds for them. Introduce the student(s) who are teaching. Maintain a basic level of control so that things don’t get out of hand.

Try it out. See how a student run lesson might work for you. It could be pretty fabulous.


Posted in Food for Thought, Regular Update

What Does Literature Consist of?

I think it’s easy to believe that literature consists only of books and articles. Literature is something that’s read, right? That’s what we’ve always believed and what we’ve always taught to the next generation. And I think that it’s a fair argument and it’s set up on a sound foundation. But in today’s day and age with the world ever evolving, is it maybe time to reconsider things?

Wouldn’t it be a good idea to consider the wide array of things which students these days can analyze? They can analyze movies, for instance. They can pick apart a movie the same way they pick apart and analyze a book. Students might even be able to go into deeper analysis of some areas because of the visuals being presented. This also might be an area of analysis that students are more willing to delve into because it’s something they’re more accustomed to. They’re used to watching TV and movies and they’re used to having conversations about them with their friends. Wouldn’t it be great to bring it into the classroom and allow students to be more comfortable with what they’re doing instead of forcing English standards and ideas onto them?

I also think that music would prove a great source for analysis. It’s something that many students are constantly plugged into, and it provides many of the same parts of analysis that reading a poem would. I think that analyzing songs would be great because students are more likely to relate to them, or at least relate to them more easily. It also would be, in my opinion, a good gateway into poetry. I think it’s hard to just throw students into poetry and expect them to relate and analyze; songs would be a good stepping stone along the way.

I’m sure that there are many more resources available which we could bring into our classrooms for analysis, but I think that these are two great places to start. I think what’s really important to consider is what our students relate to to start with, and work on bringing that into the classroom. If we make the classroom a more relatable place students might be more open to English and all the parts that come with it.


Posted in Regular Update

What is Your Favorite Book to Teach?

There are a wide array of books that can taught in any grade or in multiple grades. It also depends on what English class you’re teaching: College Prep, Honors, AP or an elective. There are so many to choose from that it seems difficult to narrow it down to just one. I guess I’ll choose a small array.

ninth grade english:

I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember a lot of what I read in 9th grade English when I was a freshman. But this year at my internship I’ve spent a lot of time working with the freshmen, and I’ve definitely begun to hone favorites from what they’re doing. I’m slightly torn between To Kill a Mockingbird and MAUS I & II. All three are books that I’ve only read this school year, and I’ve loved all of them. I think that To Kill a Mockingbird has a great story and a lot of important messages. One of my favorite things about the MAUS books is that the students seem to have an easier time relating to them, perhaps because of the format – graphic novel versus regular novel formatting. All of these are books I want to incorporate in my classroom in the future.

ap/uconn Eleventh Grade english:

This is a class that was just recently added into the curriculum at my high school. Although we’ve had AP 11 for a very long time, the UConn component was added within the past couple of years. I’ve been able to observe some of these classes this year, and I think my favorite text that I’ve seen them do so far has been The Great Gatsby. This is a text I never read in high school, and instead chose to read on my own my senior year of college. It took my a while to get into it, and the ending came as a surprise, but I really enjoyed the story and the messages it put forth. It’s definitely a text where there’s a lot of room for discussion, and I think that’s a really important factor to consider when choosing texts to bring into a classroom.

twelfth grade english:

Twelfth grade is actually a year of literature that I remember well and really enjoyed. That year we read Macbeth, Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray. All of these are texts that I love, and Macbeth is one that over my continued education I’ve read multiple times. I think my favorite text from that year though was The Picture of Dorian Gray. I really fell in love with the story that it told, and it was a text that stuck with my long after the fact.

young adult literature:

This is by far and without a doubt my favorite category of literature. I’m constantly drawn to this section of any library or bookstore and can always find something to read, often something which I haven’t read before. A couple of my favorites are The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Both of these are books which are relatable for young readers and lend themselves to broad, varied and interesting discussion. I read both of these books in my Young Adult Literature class in college, fell in love with them, and they have permanent homes in my bookcase. I hope that one day someday I have the opportunity to share these books with students and pass them onto another generation of readers.

Posted in Question of the Week

Question of the Week: Methods of Teaching

question of the week: what methods do you use when you’re teaching?

I have a lot of aspirations for what I’m going to do in my classroom when I student teach in the fall. A lot of it has to do with the methods of teaching I use. I know that it’s easy to fall into the loop of lecturing and having students take notes, but I feel that especially with English there’s a lot more I can do.

I want to have debates and have students work in small groups and with partners. I want to have them do group projects even though I know that can be a slippery slope. I want to have them make presentations on topics relevant to what we’re reading. I want them to act out scenes from the text. I want them to learn in the way that is best for them. I want to incorporate multiple intelligences into my classroom.

I think that it’s easy to do what’s familiar and what we’re used to in the classroom. I think it’s easy to incorporate what our teachers did when we were students. But times have changed. Technology is a much bigger influence in the classroom now. There’s more research based on the fact that different students learn in different ways. And I think it’s important to have fun in the classroom.

So these are some of the methods that I want to bring into my classroom to make it as fun, exciting and interactive as possible. What do you do in your classroom to mix things up?