Monday, February 27, 2012

Teachers helping teachers (and students....)

One of the best agreements we have come to in our 9th grade PLC  is asking fellow 9th grade teachers to come into our 9th grade classes and offer specific writing instruction on their unscheduled time. In the 9th grade, we have a large five paragraph persuasive research based paper we ask our students to compose. This is the first time in many of the students' lives they have ever written a paper of this magnitude. With many of our classes at 28-32 kids, our one to one time with our students is extremely limited especially to give immediate and focused feedback.   Typically, the writing unit takes six weeks of every day writing instruction.  This is an incredible amount of instruction time focused to writing the persuasive paper.

At our January PLC meeting, we addressed this problem. How can we give our students more writing feedback and, at the same time, not sacrifice additional classroom instruction time?  How can we best meet the needs of our struggling students who are falling behind in writing and, at the same time, push our advanced students ahead in their writing?  How do we give our students the one to one time they deserve?

In order to best facilitate the time our guest teachers were giving up to come into our classes, we have asked our students to prepare focused questions based upon their writing. Did they want help with organization? topic setences? thesis statements?  word choice? fluency?  connecting ideas back to thesis? etc....Then we broke up the class into equal sections based upon the number of teachers coming into class so each teacher had the same number of kids to work with.

Maura Moritz helping a student

Lauren Lee helping another student

Ethan Kuhlmann helping a student

Audra Buchwald helping a student

Abby Hancock helping a student

Greg Trotter helping another student
Although we have writing lab which is available on Tuesday and Thursdays to all students, and we peer edit in class, we realized we needed more direct instruction in class with kids who weren't seeking out additional assistance.  This was an amazing experience for the classroom teacher as well as the guest teachers. We all learned from this learning opportunity. The kids appreciated all the direct feedback and the guest teachers were able to let me know of issues they saw with specific kids, or of areas where they were really seeing kids excelling. I hope this is a tradition we will continue.

Google Map versus Google Earth

For the past few years with our study of The Odyssey and Into the Wild, I have had my students use Google Earth to trace their own personal learning journey along with the characters in the literary works we are reading. This assignment has evolved over time to now work with tracing Christopher McCandless' journey in Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild.  At the suggestion of Dana Levesque, I switched from solely using Google Earth to this year using Google Maps.  The advantages were great.

Google Maps allowed for the kids to store everything online versus having to save folders and KMZ files with their Google Earth work. Additionally, they could collaborate on their maps with others. I didn't use this feature this year, but am thinking of adding it to the maps next year in order to foster collaboration with classmates.  This will also help them connect with one another and discuss McCandless's choices. We do each entry differently with some as formulated paragraphs, but others are images, quotes, and reactions.  Google Earth and Google Map allows for the entries to change and adapt to the individuality of the student. Here is the rubric I use for the Into the Wild Google Map/ Google Earth project.

Google Map examples:




Google Earth example: 2012


Google Earth examples: old