When the students enter the classroom they will read a power point opening with a dynamic quote to encourage success and a lead in question about Sustained Silent Reading, also known as SSR. For example ‘How is the author engaging you the reader?’ Each class hour begins with ten minutes of SSR. The students can choose any work they wish from a large Reading List of non-fiction books. The books are selected to teach life lessons, life changes, adversity, traits and characteristics, as well as cultural understanding. The key element is that the student chooses the book to be read. In the event it is not a good match, they select another text to read. (About the third week I interview each student about their book. From the interview I can encourage them to continue reading or assist them to find a more compatible book). For many of my students this is the first time they have ever had success reading a book. The element of choice cannot be overstated. My Exit Interviews (self-assessments) research over the last six semesters attests to the importance of self- selection of books. This is an example of a high impact practice.
At the end of SSR the overview for the class period is shared using the colorful power point. The retention of class learning is greater with something to see, hear and do. The students can also make reference to the lesson again from the power point. This is particularly important for developmental students to have access to materials when they are out of class because they may not have developed strong learning modalities.
I use a facilitator approach to teaching. By researching the theory and methodology of teaching I have developed the background knowledge I need to support what I do in the classroom. Because I have studied, I know what kinds of best practices and activities will produce the highest impact. Overall the term that complements my teaching is active learning. Active learning is a form of learning teaching which strives to involve students in the learning process more directly than in other methods.
A lesson begins with a power point introducing the title, author’s photo and biography on the screen. Significant vocabulary words are noted and students are acquainted with meaning and context. The title, background of the author of the text might predict (which is one of the most important aspects of critical thinking) what the text is about.
In small groups students use active learning, for a significant part of the period. For example, they collaborate as they recall their background knowledge and predictions, to share with classmates. They are learning to articulate their thoughts as well as learn from the perspectives of others. Students also begin to realize the more the reader knows about the subject, the greater degree of success when reading and later writing. At this point, the students are beginning to stretch their deep thinking using Bloom’s Taxonomy action verbs to think critically to predict, link, draw on prior knowledge, infer, analyze, make judgments or evaluate the text together. It is important to note that this high impact activity takes place prior to reading the work.
Key thought provoking questions are introduced and used to guide reading and discussion. Depending on the text, the students may read aloud, read in small groups or independently with discussion throughout this segment of the class. There is no attempt to read the whole text but enough is read to allow the students to successfully finish the piece on their own. The teacher reading aloud is research driven, and particularly important modelling for developmental students. Confidently reading aloud is important in the work place when giving presentations, presenting research, or quoting information, for example. Since the classroom is like a laboratory, this is where students develop this skill.
Critical Thinking and In Class Writing
The students use the critical thinking questions offered to guide their reading to now write a strong reflection. Because of the extensive in class preparation, students find success. There is never a time when a student says “I don’t know what to write about”. Instead they write with depth: interpreting, analyzing or evaluating a text. They write for the last portion of the class meeting.
Additional Critical Thinking and Writing
Because the students used deep, critical thinking when reading the text they can successfully write in a follow up software program from McGraw Hill. Using the Connect Power of Process the students master the ability to read and write with impressive depth. Each response whether it be a prediction, comparison, contrast, purpose, tone, or audience or any part of rhetorical analysis etc. reveals their deep reservoir of learning. Again each part of the assignment has written comments to encourage the students in the parts that were especially supported, effective and well written.
Each assignment, regardless of being low or high stakes, is returned with specific, targeted, encouraging written feedback. Students need encouragement as emerging writers. They must also think about their own learning more explicitly. Constructive help can be shared with the writer. This emphasis is a result of my research on feedback, particularly specific, targeted, written feedback which was included in my master’s research. The turnaround time is as important as the feedback. The faster the student receives comments, the greater the student improvement. Constant positive responses must be shared with developmental students. “Feedback and using metacognition are some of the most powerful and cost effective tools that can be used by educators”, as stated by the Education Endowment Foundation. Students begin to recognize what they are doing correctly, and they will continue to raise the bar, and they will also know where improvement is needed
“Why provide positive feedback? Educator Susan M. Brookhart emphasizes the power of the words we choose and use with our students (2008). She explains that there are two main factors of feedback: a cognitive factor (the information learned) and a motivational factor (students’ feelings related to their learning). Hence, feedback is only effective when it is a clear and positive message that students understand.”(NCTE Bulletin)
“Powerful feedback is positive, formative, and focused on one main teaching point. If your feedback achieves this, your students will grow!” Macy Geiger, an NCTE Presenter who shares my approach. My own research shows that when students understand what they are doing correctly they will repeat the effort again.
Ultimately these reading and writing tasks will be used as the foundation for a major paper. As part of this segment they draft, use peer reviews and an individual conference. Developmental students who often lack the ability to write a paper of any length, now have the tools and learning ability to be successful in writing a major paper. The major paper will be graded with an appropriate rubric
This English 990 course has three units which are:
At the culmination of each unit students write a major paper and it is an application of their learning. Additionally, each student creates a Nuggets power point as part of the narration section. The purpose of this assignment is to challenge students to review the texts and find significant main ideas, couple the quotes with strong photographic images, note the Bloom’s taxonomy, and explain the English 990 objectives used for the assignment. Each Nuggets project is evaluated using a critical thinking rubric.
The students also participate in a museum show called The Art and Literacy Museum. Similar to an art opening, the students learn appropriate behavior and engage in each of their classmates’ projects framed by the objectives of English 990.
Lastly the students create book presentations to share with their classmates. They have successfully read for 10 minutes at the beginning of class the whole semester and now it is time to share their engagement with a self- selected text. They choose ten significant quotes from their book, coupled with strong photo images, include a summary of a related article, and share why this book should be “Your Next Read!” Each power point is perused in the transformed classroom which is now called New York Metropolitan Library. Students carry a pen and a sticky note to jot down their next reads; they are amazed and thrilled to find their next, next, next read. It is now very easy to make reading a lifelong habit.
All of these assignments are listed in the syllabus and a power point is in Canvas files where it is available for specific information. Canvas picture for course management
Other Teaching Evidence
Recent Teaching Evaluation
Recent Observation Lesson Plans
Reading 990 Files