Sharing Your Thoughts

I am preparing the seminar groups for our class tomorrow night and thinking about all of you and the good work you have done this semester.

Would you please use the Atwell piece (“Afterword”) in Beers as a jumping off point to reflect on what you think is the most important work we have done together this semester. That will help me tremendously for future planning.

My big question: how are you thinking about ENGLISH (what English is? And teaching it!) in contrast to how you might have been thinking about it before 541? What has been most important to you this semester? What has been foundational? Transformative?

Recall Yagelski’s emphasis on a “pedagogy of possibility.” Where are you finding possibilities for the future in your own classroom in the work you have done in 541?

And how are your understandings (yes, overarching!) about what constitutes a progressive ELA pedagogy evolving?

This has been a new project for me and and it’s been challenging to include all of the things I have wanted to include in a one-semester Methods class. I have learned a great deal myself as any teacher does teaching a new course. The rule of thumb is that it takes 3x through any new course or content before a teacher knows the territory well enough to be confident about the content/organization, etc. etc. I can surely attest to that!!

I wonder if you agree with what I think have been the emphases in the class–in no particular order:

• focusing on critical literacies (multiple perspectives–Tyson/Appleman)
• honing a teacher’s voice speaking to other teachers (the YA lit article)
• writing for publication as a model for your own work with students (YA lit article)
• developing as an informed professional (NCTE membership, professional reading)
• considering transformative pedagogies (I have to say it–Gruwell!)
• focusing on collaborative and multiple structures that support adolescent readers (Atwell, book club)
• selecting multiple texts to engage a wider range of readers and readings (Beers chapters, unit plan)
• planning for teaching with the “end in mind” (UbD unit planning)
• establishing a classroom community (blogging, small group class discussions)
• investigating new literacies/new media (Beers chapters, your unit plans, etc.)
• honoring the truth that all kids can/want to learn – but from different texts and w/different tools (Beers chapters)
• gathering a toolkit of strategies to use to engage readers in reading complex texts (seminar assignment)

What would you add?

I always require a final reflection in any course I teach; but this semester w/the final class activity and your revising such an important paper, I did not assign a specific final reflection.

But if you choose to add pts to your unit plan grade, you have the opportunity to reflect in writing between tomorrow and the end of next week. I hope you will.

I look forward to reading your blog posts on this prompt and seeing you in class tomorrow night.

If you are on campus earlier than start of class, please stop in and pick up your unit plan before class. I will begin reading last book reviews and newly revised YA lit article submissions after our last class and will send feedback between now and the start of the exam week at Cortland.

I invite you to make an appt. to meet with me next week sometime if you would like to talk about your work and/or my assessment of it. KES



Filed under Class Notes

5 responses to “Sharing Your Thoughts

  1. canadawr5

    I think you pretty much covered everything. I especially like the point that you made “all kids want to learn” because I think this understanding is very important.

    All kids do want to learn, and we as teachers should try our best to teach them as best as we can.

    Before this class, I had no idea of how to create a lesson plan.

    I’m still very far from an expert, but it feels good to have a clue. I never knew how difficult it was to teach.

    Thanks to this course, I now have some kind of understanding about “overarching understandings” or my primary objectives. What will students learn as a result of this unit?

    Then my overaching “essential questions” are the questions that will support my overarching understandings. What questions will we focus on as a result of this unit?

    It’s almost like writing a paper. Your “overarching understandings” is like your thesis statement and your “essential questions” are the topic sentences in your paragraphs which follow your introduction.

    I had no clue about what all this meant before this course.

    Ray C.

  2. ll123

    I agree with you, Ray. Even though the Unit Plan takes me forever to prepare and revise, yet I cherish the chance Dr. Stearns gives us so that we all learn how to design lesson plans. I am sure such practice will benefit our student teaching as well as our future professional career. Posted by L. L.

  3. sofiapenna

    Well, it’s exactly 7 PM on Tuesday night, and so I thought I would pay my respects to the course blog since our meeting has been called off!

    Dr. Stearns, I actually did not realize that this is the first time you have taught this course. I suppose I should not admit that, because perhaps you said it many times over and I just wasn’t paying attention! Out of the list that you provided for us in your post, the bullet point that stands out the most to me is developing as an informed professional through our reading of scholarly journals. I think you’ve done a great job exposing us to many different authors in the field, and you have continually stressed the need for us to teach ourselves about what is up and coming in the ELA classroom. I understand this now: Teaching prep does not end once your degree has been conferred. This is only the beginning.

    I would also add that this course is a great compliment to 506, and I hope future students take these two courses at the same time as I did. Learning about “new” texts (541) in conjunction with “new” technology (506) is a great way to pair coursework together.

    I will write more about this in a reflection that I email to you as an attachment.

  4. allison

    Professor Stearns,

    I agree with everyone else. I feel as though I have grown this semester. Ray says above that he now realizes how difficult it is to teach. I always thought it would be tough, but after this class I realize that it will be tougher than I ever thought. I can see us all making strides to meet the challenge, though.

    Planning the unit made me realize what a huge task this will be. I find it extremely difficult to dissect common “understandings” and make them basic enough for students to learn. I realize that I still have a lot of work to do.

    More than anything else, this class has made me think about everything I know and what I believe. We have looked at many different methods and approaches. I found myself shying away from some and embracing some. Nevertheless, I think we have all moved towards becoming great teachers.

    I will write more specifics about the other aspects of the class in a reflection, which I will email to you.

  5. allison

    I will add to my above post, bringing Atwell into the discussion, in response to Prof. Stearn’s request. I wrote in my reflection:

    I have read through Atwell’s Afterward to the Beers book, and I picked up on two themes from this course: technology and personal connections. This course has made me realize how essential technology can be in the classroom. When Dr. Stearns first introduced the idea, I must admit I was surprised and doubtful of some techniques, particularly using non-traditional or visual texts in the English classroom. Now, I realize that technology can be a great resource. Atwell also talked about sharing her writing and writing process with her students. This reminded me of Gruwell and of Dr. Stearns. It made me think of the teachers who “let students in,” and go out of their way to connect with them. This is something that I admire in teachers, but something that I had never thought about before taking this class. It’s going above and beyond for students- loaning them books, or some of Gruwell’s more extreme methods. I’m not sure where I will stand on the spectrum, but I don’t think it will be as far over as Gruwell (inviting students to my house and going to Europe with them). I guess I am more likely to loan them a few books!
    Where does everyone else think they will stand?

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