Take a deep breath. This may be the last time you have to do this until May because we all know that once school starts back after break, the pace only accelerates until graduation. The new year is the perfect time for personal reflection and goal setting and the new year offers teachers a late Christmas gift – a chance to make mid-year classroom adjustments. This only happens with intentionality and reflection.
The last thing my students did before break was assess their progress in the class. I simply asked them to record any areas of growth as well as struggles. Many students shared that their writing skills and reading comprehension had improved and were pleased with their progress. Others shared that this was their first AP class and felt a sense of accomplishment by keeping up with the pace and intensity of the class. Students commented that they wanted to grow as writers by finding their voice or improve in multiple choice. I will return each student notecard on the first day back with a couple of quick thoughts and encouragement for students. I have a good feel for where students are, but this activity helps me know where students think they are. If you’ve not gotten feedback from your students at the midpoint yet, make time to do this now.
In addition to student feedback, I will assess and make adjustments in the following areas. You may want to focus on different areas, but I will share mine as examples.
Most students have a good understanding of what is required of an essay by this point in the year even if they are not able to execute it each time. My direction for the next semester is to continue to keep the focus on students writing using strong and frequent textual evidence along with insightful analysis. An added emphasis in January and February will be placed on helping students develop their voice and personal style. Students will write frequently, study anchor essays to improve their craft, and continue to develop and assess personal writing goals based on their writing portfolio.
Students gave an overwhelming thumbs up to the novels read in class the first semester; the second semester will cause them to dig deeper into more difficult works using the skills learned the first semester. Students have a good understanding of the modern, Romantic, gothic, and dystopian novel; I plan to cover Shakespeare, satire, comedy, and tragedy this semester. The goal is for students to be able to explain different genres and characteristics of different time periods and movements. Students will continue to refine close reading strategies.
In my mid-year survey, one student commented that she has never been in a class that has such a sense of community. I loved hearing this because this is something I value and believe makes a difference between good and great school experiences. My goal for the spring is for students to rely on each other for academic gains. Students will have more opportunity to peer edit and question each other. My challenge is to help the students who are not as confident in their skills to realize they have things to share that the class needs and offer them a platform to do so. We will continue to celebrate and encourage one another.
I say this weekly: “AP Lit is not about the test and AP Lit is all about the test.” The things that I love about the AP Lit exam are it gives students a goal, helps them refine their focus and efforts, and is a fair assessment of skills built throughout the year. I unapologetically spend time prepping students for the exam believing the skills learned through our test prep will benefit students in life. We will begin multiple choice work and start whittling away at the time limit for essays. I love sending students into the exam prepared, confident, and proud of the work they have done.
So what about your class? Where do you need to adjust? What is going well? What needs more attention? Begin the new year with reflection and adjustments.