I just wanted to share a great experience that I had today during my observation. I ended up observing a different teacher. She had an 11th grade AP English Language class. This class focuses more on writing and reads a lot of nonfiction. I was astounded by how much this class was rooted in current events. Each week, they write current events papers based on an article. They also had readings involving the Patriot Act, and today they handed in an annotated bibliography of their research on global warming.
Today, the teacher introduced a new project to them. She called it a “group analysis paper” and said that they will work in groups of four to create a document. She explained that in the real world, people often need to work in groups to analyze a problem. Each group would read an article and analyze the credibility and bias of the author, the structure of the argument, the potential flaws in the construction or logic of the argument, and so on. I was particularly struck by the articles she had chosen. They were from current issues of magazines such as Newsweek, Scientific American, Skeptical Inquirer, and Mother Jones. The articles were about AIDS, Space, alternative lifestyles, controversial institutions for the mentally ill, and so on. I thought this was a great way to teach students about argument while raising their awareness and interest in the world around them. I think the content of this course is key. It would be so easy to use outdated materials or bland topics, but the teacher had carefully selected articles that were current and engaging.
This class reminded me of some of our earlier readings, particularly the “Chat room musings” article. This is a great example of keeping the material fresh. Also, this course obviously looks outside of the canon for texts. This was great for me to see because I had not yet seen the method in practice to this degree. It convinced me of the effectiveness of using other texts in class.
Has anyone else discovered any similar methods in their observation?