What the Class of 2015 Taught the Teacher

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Grades often inhibit learning. My conversations over a year about grades outweigh my conversations about learning at least 5:1; this signals a problem for me. Driven by the desire to get in good schools, students and parents have become obsessed with grades. Students are afraid to take risks in writing because they are too concerned about what it will do to their grade; this also signals a problem for me. My goal this summer is to read everything I can get my hands on about the movement of removing grades and put a plan into place for the fall where the emphasis is on learning and not grades. A number does not necessarily represent learning. There has to be a better way, and while I may not find “the solution,” grades will not be the focus of my class next year. … KEEP READING

After the Exam

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With the AP exam now officially behind us, we are left with the challenge of what to do with the rest of our class time. We strive to make our class meaningful and purposeful for our students but have pushed hard and want to relax and enjoy the last few days or weeks. Some teachers have several weeks of school providing time to teach a novel while others, like myself, finish before Memorial Day.

Here are a few ideas to maintain an academic focus while enjoying a more low-pressured learning environment.

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Community in the Classroom

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Membership has its privileges. American Express recognizes the power of community and has used this pitch to sell their credit card to 102 million people over the last three decades. People want to be a member, not just a credit card holder.

The same is true with teaching. Teachers have the choice to either conduct a class or create a learning community. I choose the latter because I believe that the more my students experience community, the more willing they are to give of themselves to the group and to my instruction. … KEEP READING

Film in the Classroom: A Means to Develop Analysis

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Why use precious class time to watch clips when we are supposed to be reading? Doesn’t film dumb students down when teachers should be raising rigor? These are common objections to using film in the classroom; however, there’s a huge difference between popping a movie in to catch up on grading and skillfully using film to instruct. Film can be a great lead-in for complex texts providing a common shared experience in the classroom. With film being a student-friendly medium, barriers to teaching critical thinking skills are often removed building student confidence in analysis. … KEEP READING

The Power of Highlighting Essays

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The highlighter is a common tool in annotating. Literary texts are coded with different colors making grouping of ideas easy for students. Teachers and students, however, tend to put the highlighters down when it comes to essays and miss the opportunity to improve writing through visual learning. Taking time to mark essays slows the students down in their reading and studying of writing and gives them a visual of the construction of an essay. Highlighting or coding essays can be used in several ways. … KEEP READING

Top Ten Reminders for Timed Writings

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Here are 10 reminders to give your students for timed-writing assignments:

1. Write in literary present tense. The text is alive and speaking to readers today, not just when it was written.

2. Create a thesis that not only addresses the prompt but offers an opinion that the essay can defend.

3. Maintain focus by checking that every sentence directly relates to the thesis. If a thought or sentence does not tie to the thesis, mark it out and continue. KEEP READING

Multiple Choice Monday

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Each Monday my students do multiple choice practice. My non-AP classes work on SAT reading comprehension questions while my AP students focus on AP exam type questions. Tests vary in length each week from 10 questions to a full AP practice exam of 55 questions. Multiple-choice practice can often suck the life out of a class, yet practice is necessary in order to increase reading comprehension skills and prepare for the exam.

I have started using Socrative in all of my classes for several reasons. Students benefit from Socrative because it provides a game-based feel for an ordinarily mundane activity and gives immediate feedback on questions. Teachers benefit from Socrative because valuable class time is not wasted on questions the entire class answered correctly, and data can be saved from each practice test in order to tailor future lessons to class weaknesses. … KEEP READING

5 Works of Art to Teach Critical Thinking

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With the emphasis on high rigor in today’s class, the English class sometimes becomes repetitive. Reading, writing, and discussion are the staple of a successful class, and these must be done. Art, however, is one of the most underutilized resources in today’s AP class. The Roman poet Horace claimed, “A picture is a poem without words” meaning art and written word are different mediums of expression. Art offers students a break from written words while continuing to develop the same skill set needed to be successful readers through challenging students to think both critically and analytically.

Here are a few examples of how I use art in class: … KEEP READING

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