Monthly Archives: September 2009

Teaching in Isolation

When people hear the term “teaching in isolation,” they probably think it has something to do with PLCs or collaboration (or its lack thereof). But there’s another kind.

I believe many teachers make the mistake of teaching every skill set or unit separately, in essence in isolation. Instead of teaching sentence structures, then comma rules, then vocabulary, and then the reading content, why not combine these after introducing a skill at a time.

For instance, my department’s curriculum calls for Sophomore students to learn how to integrate correctly about 18 comma rules, active voice, parentheses and semicolon rules, and so on all the while teaching the content (the readings). Most teachers with whom I speak teach the list of comma rules and then a book and then active voice and then a book and then semicolons and then a book, etc. What drudgery for kids!

I prefer to combine these elements after teaching one skill at a time. As an example in a typical week, I would introduce the week’s vocabulary on Monday and one comma rule Tuesday. I would also ensure none of these activities would exceed 10-15 minutes, so we could continue discussing the novel and work on the writing skills (thesis statements, quotation use, etc.).

Thus, a Wednesday assignment might be: explain where an example of situational irony is employed in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar using 2-3 sentences. Include two vocabulary words and a coordinating conjunction (correctly using a comma) in the answer. If I were to go a step or two further, I might add the requirements of using active voice or labeling the independent clauses or some other part of the sentence.

On Thursday I might have the students do a similar response using dramatic irony, active voice, two different vocabulary words, and another coordinating conjunction.

These short responses might take a few minutes of class time but could be shared with partners, shown to the class, or turned in to me to check for understanding. It doesn’t have to be graded–not everything does–but used as a practice and a risk-free attempt to incorporate seemingly separate skills.

I like having a grammar/punctuation focus of the week as well as a writing skill of the week to use with the reading and vocabulary. The more that I teach these together, the more I have seen students use them in their own writing. Exposure and practice, practice, and practice. Repetition isn’t always such a bad thing. Neither is avoiding isolation.

Mini-lessons and recursive teaching works.

Open House

Tonight was Open House, and all went quite well.

Personally, I’m not really a big fan of the perfunctory process of the Open House song and dance. However, I also recognize that it’s not about me (perish the thought) but is really a PR moment for me and my school.

Parents really seem to want to see me, to hear me, and to see the environment in which their kids will be for the next 9-10 months. It’s a first impression that I get to make for the parents prior to the students getting to the stumbling blocks and prior to the first grading period. Then, it’s time for conferences.

My students’ parents usually comment on my happy wall filled photos of students past and the display walls of numerous projects hung around the room. They like seeing which kids have enjoyed my classes and company in the past as well as seeing the artwork, poetry, and prose the students will produce. It’s an introduction to the world I create for their children.

Tonight’s presentations for the parents were quick but full of important information, and I hope I made a good impression even if I didn’t wear a tie this year. :)

That Super Long Day

I mentioned that I had a “super long day” in a previous post, but it was much less exciting than it may have sounded.

I arrived at school around 6:15 am on Monday last week to get paperwork done for the week, and then I taught from 8:00 until 3:00. Next, I had a meeting from 3:30 – 5:00 at another school; lastly, I subbed for another teacher at a policy meeting from 5:45 – 8:15. It was a looooong day.

What I haven’t said since then is that I also had a 12 hour day that Tuesday, a 13 hour day that Wednesday, and a football trip that got me home that Friday at around 2:30 am.

Exhausted was an understatement come Saturday. This week is busy but nowhere near last week’s insanity. Still, it’s been a great start to the year! :)