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.
My students have a high-stakes oral defense of their senior research towards the end of the spring semester, and we prepare for that all year. The Video Diagnostic is a recording of each student’s starting point in the oral presentation process and an opportunity for students to see a snippet of their presentation "selves," what their peers see as their current strengths, and what their teacher sees as their current challenges. Each Video Diagnostic includes these three parts -- the oral presentation, peer feedback, and teacher feedback. These are then packaged into one short Video Diagnostic, uploaded, and shared to the student. The student watches it all and gets a clearer sense of how they appear to an audience in terms of their tone, inflection, pacing, and eye contact. I also have them watch these diagnostics a few weeks before the high-stakes presentation as a confidence booster because all of them will have made tremendous gains in their oral presentation skills from that first diagnostic to months later when they are finalizing their presentations at the end of the year.
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