Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Little More...

Tomorrow Jill, my supervisor, is coming in to observe my English 10B class. I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but when she asked which class I wanted her to see on 3/31, and I was thinking in my head, "Say Journalism, say Journalism" and instead, I said, "English 10." It's the one that I need the most help in improving, which is ironic, since Journalism is the class that hasn't been offered in a long while. Amy has been incredibly helpful, but I think there's no such thing as too many perspectives when it comes to something as important as developing teaching strategies. (This relates to something Amy says a lot--there are a lot of ways to approach a unit/text, and it's not about which is right or wrong but what works for you.) I'm excited to have a fresh perspective and some advice; one of the things I have learned these past few weeks is that there is *so much* to learn and I have so many ways to grow.

Oh, speaking of this, I have some things to add to my list!

14. Maybe drill instructors know something we don't. Returning to things that you really want them to remember might be the only way.
15. I love photocopy machines. However, they don't love me. Neither does Amanda. Try to plan handouts in advance so they can actually be sent out.
16. Cut off times with your availability for after school.
17. They'll ask you how many points it's worth. Be approximate but not specific.
18. Open note final tests will prevent you from having to police some forms of cheating.
19. Make a guide to how you'll grade.
20. Remember small details--birthdays, sports participation, events, etc.

I am feeling a bit lazy with my posting, so what I am going to do is cut, copy, and paste the ENORMOUS handout I made for Jill. I wasn't sure how much is too much, as you can see, but there's some interesting stuff in there, which may clarify things I was vague on. (Oh, and for the purposes of that whole internet/privacy, etc thing, I have changed names mentioned to initials, which is probably what I will do from here on out so I don't have to keep saying "that IEP kid" and I'll say EM or MR, etc. or "that ELL student"... etc.)

Molly Sutton

English 10B (second trimester of sophomore English)

To Kill a Mockingbird

Lesson Plan

Thursday, 31 March 2005

Notes for Jill Flynn—first observation


The two main activities of this lesson plan, aside from general housekeeping as outlined in the procedure, is to help students begin to interpret the text.


Students are to have read through chapter 17 in the novel, which is a little over halfway. I have attached the notes for students who are absent—these I am going to put in a permanent binder, but if a student misses, I try to print out these notes (especially if it’s more then one day—if it’s not, then I just explain it to them) when I give them their handouts. Some of the things we did to prepare for what will be in this lesson—Tuesday before spring break we did Reader Response, we had a reading quiz on Monday (and will have another next Monday), and throughout the past week, we’ve done a variety of things—there was a large group discussion/lecture of chapters 1-10 (I had a lot of students telling me that they were really confused and read the chapters but didn’t understand what was going on), they recently got one of those chapter guides that have a slew of questions to get them through the reading (they can do this alone or with a partner and have time in class at the end of the hour to work—I found this is a good way to have them accountable for doing the reading, but it also fills up extra time at the end of the hour, or just before lunch.


  1. Journal: Characters’ perspectives on Tom Robinson trial
    1. Note: This is a good way for them to practice daily writing, think about the text in unique ways, prep for the class’s activities and help me prepare for any group discussion (so I don’t feeling like I’m pulling teeth!), and it gives me the time to do attendance, hand back assignments, and pull out work for absent students without having to take up class time. I graded the last set of journals, which were OK, and I made a handout on tips, which I’ll add to this packet.
    2. Vocab words for quiz
  2. Housekeeping/Announcements
  3. Vocab words for quiz
    1. Note: They got the definitions on Monday, had to write fifteen sentences due Wednesday, will have quiz on Friday. Last week, they got the words on Monday, had to look them up by Wednesday, and the quiz was on all the words on Friday. Whew! I learned that this was too many words and looking them up was a little tedious. This way, they can interact with the vocab. a little more.
  1. Poetry Presentation—SO (who had forgotten she had to go on Tuesday—hopefully she remembers for today!)
    1. Note: This is an ongoing project. From what I gleaned from Beach’s class, talking with the high schoolers when observing, and my experiences teaching the poetry class at Crosswinds, poetry is a super-scary thing for a lot of people. (In Dawn Hanson’s Adolescent Lit. class, many of the students/teachers admitted to hating poetry, which bummed me out, but they feel it’s “too hard” and unapproachable.) I’m trying to make poetry less mysterious and difficult. The students signed up for dates that followed spring break (which was last week) and they were to do a 4-5 minute presentation on a favorite poem. We had two on 3-30, and one was pretty good and the other obviously did the work during lunchtime. I had modeled two poems for them last week (I’m thinking I might do it again tomorrow) and gave them a handout on tips on what to include. They have to turn in a clean copy for the class anthology and a copy they have written notes on. I’ll add that handout to this packet as well.
  2. Reader Response with To Kill a Mockingbird
    1. Note: We did this Tuesday, 15 March 2005 with Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms.” I modeled it on the overhead, and had intended to give them time in class, but apparently that didn’t quite get across to them. I’ll give them some time today and ask for five main points. That’s a lot for them, so we’ll see how it goes. I will model one or two points, and give them a photocopy from the text so they can mark it up—it’s a two part assignment, where I ask them to write notes in the margins as they explore, then fill out the graphic organizer. (I photocopied the notes from the first poem and plan to use them to develop my portfolio. I figure since we’re going to do a lot of marking up of texts—using questioning, noting points of interesting and confusion as well as comprehension, etc.—it would be good to see how they progress.)
  3. Letter to the Editor
    1. Note: This comes right on the heels of a day of notes (I did use overheads, but I used them as a skeleton—I made photocopies of those notes and gave them to the students with special needs—IEPs and ELLs—and anyone else who wanted to copy them down) coming in the form of a lecture and large group discussion. I let them know that the unit test is not going to be like the reading quizzes. The reading quizzes are mainly pass-if-you-read-it. Matching and short answer. The reader response also came back to haunt them on this—I asked for a definition and as extra credit, they could draw the graphic organizer and use one example. Anyway, I told them that the unit test is going to be more critical thinking—why characters said certain things, the roles of symbols and characters, etc. Relating it to current events. I’ve been giving them a lot of the quotes and other items in the notes, though not pointing out that this is why they need to know certain things. This letter to the editor could be a relief for them—a creative way to look at the text.


I have found that having them write everything down will hold them accountable for a lot of things. On the first day, I gave them a reading/writing questionnaire. One question was what they didn’t like in activities for English class—too many people had “reading” and “writing” down there. While there are a lot of good kids in the class, it’s hard to get them to do the work. One of the students likes to tell me that he hasn’t done any reading beyond chapter one, and I keep telling him that he needs to do the reading and plan his time wisely, and I have been really patient with him, but I’m not sure what he wants me to do—he’s very nice, but he’s like a lot of the students who just aren’t doing the work, even when I give them time in class. I’m also dealing with some kids who probably would do well in an honors class, combined with kids on an IEP and dealing with any ELL barriers. I have met with one of the students on an IEP twice after school already, and we’ve adjusted some of the assignments for him. Some of the kids left for a few days before and after spring break, so a lot of them need to make up quizzes and need extra time. I’m having the worst time trying to keep track of who had an excused absence and who didn’t. (They don’t get credit if they cheat in any way or if they skip class.)

The assessments for today:

1. Participation (not just speaking up but if they are on task as well)

2. Reader Response graphic organizer & notes on text

3. Letter to the Editor

Also—I have a TA during my 3rd hour. There are no study halls at RAHS, so the juniors and seniors who have enough credits but want an open period can TA for a teacher. AF is mine and has been Amy’s for a few trimesters, I believe. She is a senior and honors English student and understands what this class has done before when Amy teaches it, which is helpful.

For the first week, I didn’t have much for her to do besides grade things like the vocabulary quiz or the reading quiz and entering grades in the gradebook. (They don’t enter grades in the computer, so they don’t get to see who has an “A” or an “F”, but it’s not hard to figure it out.) I have finally gotten into figuring out how to plan things for her to do that would help me. I have assigned the students to sign up for one of the chapters and make an illustration (a movie poster, storyboard, comic strip, etc. are options) of that chapter, but since I am not a seasoned teacher, I don’t have examples to show them! I had A make an example for one of the chapters the students didn’t sign up for. She made a collage, and Amy helped her pick out the main images, etc. Today, I’m going to have her cut up these black and white images I printed from the American Memory website—images of people and houses from the Depression. I figured out another creative activity for the students to have in the first days of the unit and I’ll probably use it next time I teach the text (if that ever happens). Originally, I had the students write any scene from the book (I showed them what I meant by putting a copy from A Raisin in the Sun which most read last trimester). Set the stage—show where in the book you’re writing it, what the stage looks like, what are the props and characters—and I gave them the option of doing it on their own or working with a partner or two others, though they would need more lines and more vocabulary words as they had more people involved. Anyway, I will probably keep this activity or adapt it for another unit, but I have developed another activity that I think is particularly interesting. Going on this poem thing that I am trying to emphasize—I would give them images from this website and have them fill out a sheet that asks details about the image and write a poem about that image—either from the perspective of a character in the book or maybe just a reflection on place, etc. I will have A cut those images out and glue them to index cards, which I will then laminate to preserve them. I wish I had another spring break—we always need more time, I guess, and like my parents (who are teachers) said, “There’s always something more that you can do.” Know when to draw the line, which I haven’t quite figured out yet.

(I’m sorry there is so much here—like I said in my email, I have trouble trying to figure out what is helpful and what is “too much.”)

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