Opening Journal Warm-Up
While I often use a Google Form survey or an opening conversation to start class and set the tone, there is also tremendous value in having students write their individual thoughts in their Writer's Notebooks. Ours is a mostly paperless classroom despite the fact that it is an English class, so these pen-to-paper moments are significant ones. Students understand that these journal entries are silent reflections meant to put them in the frame of mind needed for the day's lessons.
One of the most essential steps for a successful Socratic seminar is the preparation of evidence that each student will bring into these discussions. One of the ways we prepare is through Pair Posters followed by a Gallery Walk. To give context, the seminars are whole class and entirely student-facilitated. Given all of the personality dynamics at play during the actual seminar, coupled with the ever-present video camera recording their thoughtful conversation that will later be scripted, it is fundamental that the students ground their opinions and questions in the text in order for the seminar to be a positive learning experience. One method of preparation that helps them do this, and that also generates enthusiasm for this high-stakes discussion, is dividing the class into pairs to create quote posters. After each pair is assigned a literary device, they then use their Annotation Logs to select text evidence shows how the literary device functions. This involves conversation and negotiation between the pair who then have to use the device analysis to connect back to one of the themes we have been studying as a class and incorporate an image that illuminates that connection. The public nature of the gallery walk that ensues after the posters are completed ensures that student pairs also spend time polishing the final product. Their peers will then take pictures of all the posters and decide which ones they might want to use as part of their individual evidence preparation for the Socratic seminar.
Just the Facts asks one to two students to summarize quickly the reading that will be used in the day's discussion. We follow a simple protocol of "Who + What"--citing which characters from the text did what significant actions in order to move the plot forward. When the initial student is finished sharing key facts from the reading, another student might be asked to fill in any other details. If there are plot details that are incorrect, it is an opportunity for other students to correct the errors. These "police report" type of summaries can be audio or video recorded, quickly edited, and then posted on to the class website as a more engaging way for students to review significant plot points from our class texts. Although there is an ideal reading pace at which I want students to move, some will be ahead of the reading calendar and some will be behind. Also, many students are anxious or reluctant to share out loud when it comes to analysis of the reading. Given that the Just the Facts reports the text's plot and simply the facts, more students are enthusiastic about sharing because the strategy allows different students to be the experts in relaying facts.
I would describe my classroom as a mix of a flex and a face-to-face instructional model. During our block periods, my students transition frequently among different learning modalities, including online self-paced learning, collaborative small group learning, and whole class instruction. They use online tools to become stronger readers, to conduct research, to connect with communities beyond our classroom, and to engage civically through blogging, virtual discussions, and community-focused projects. Ideally through consistent student-to-student collaboration, my project-based classroom allows students to see the importance of social justice and how it is infused in the literature content they engage with on a regular basis. Co-teaching and authentic project-based learning are key elements of my model.
Number of Students: ~15-25 students
Number of Adults: one teacher; one student teacher
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 92 minutes (M, T, Th, F); 35 minutes (W)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: Google Drive; Google Apps for Education; Gooru Learning; Adobe Photoshop; Newsela; Piktochart Infographic Creator; iMovie; iPhoto; Audible; Quizlet; Jupiter Ed; Google Hangouts
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: mobile cart with 34 Chromebooks (1:1)
Key Features: project-based; innovative use of time; student agency