T Sale's Blog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Back to School

Last year, as we discussed ways to reinvent our teaching to better serve students, I mainly mulled things over without making many substantial changes. At the beginning of this 2007-08 school year, I'm "taking the plunge" and hoping I don't end up holding the plunger. A couple of the things I'm trying:

In my English 10 and Science Fiction classes I'm using a 4-point grading scale in an attempt to take the emphasis off point-accumulation and focus the students' thoughts on the quality of their assignments rather than on "how many more points do I need for an A?" I modeled the scale on Tony Winger's rubric that you can see if you look on Infinite Campus: admin--curves--Winger Rubric. I plan to weight the bigger assignments, but for every assignment they do, the students will just see a 4, 3, 2, or 1. I'm trying to couple this with increased self-evaluation by the students, constantly asking them "How well did you do?" and providing feedback.

I have told my English 10 classes that their only homework for now is to read 24/7. They can read anything with text, electronic or print. (One student promptly informed me that he planned to read the closed captioning subtitles on his TV...) They will report on their reading every 2-3 weeks and I will comment and encourage them. We've talked about the idea that the more you work with language, the better you get at expressing yourself, but that if you only read simple stuff you'll only have simple thoughts (I believe the cyber version is GIGO). There are no requirements for time spent reading or pages read, and I plan to grade the readfing reports on their clarity and thoroughness rather than on the quantity or quality of the reading they report. When I shared this with parents at BTS night they looked skeptical. I am too. We'll see what happens.

I let the sophomores choose two literary books to read as a class, rather than basing my lit choices on when books are available in the department. So far they picked Fahrenheit 451 (much to my delight). I'm also trying to give students plenty of choice about writing topics. Helping 15-year-olds find writing topics can be tough. I started by asking them to blog about something that piques their curiosity (you can see the results at tsaleone0708.blogspot.com and tsalefive0708.blogspot.com).

I'm not sure I'm completely ready for this brave new world, but nothing ventured, nothing gained (literary allusion and cliche in the same sentence!).


  • At Fri Aug 31, 03:53:00 PM 2007, Blogger Mr. Chase said…

    I'm looking forward to seeing what happens and how your new approach evolves this year.
    I'm teaching 8th and 10th grade English this year and I'm also attempting to go deeper.

  • At Sun Sep 02, 09:46:00 PM 2007, Blogger Karl Fisch said…

    It seems as though holding the plunger is actually not such a bad position to be in - at least as opposed to being on the other end of it :-)

    I wonder if, "How well did you do?" is the best way to frame the question. For many students, I fear that will translate back into grades, or perhaps meeting your expectations, not their own. I'm not sure what the best question would be, but something more along the lines of, "How well did you accomplish your purpose?" seems more appropriate.

    So you and the parents are skeptical. Skeptical of what, exactly? That they'll read? Or that what they read will "benefit" them? Or that they'll choose appropriate content? Were any of you skeptical in the past of those same things with more traditional homework assignments? What's your goal for your students in English 10, and what is the best way to help students accomplish that goal?


Post a Comment

<< Home