Reflection: Accountability Gettin' Political with the Transcendentalists - Section 2: Introduction


Though most English teachers that I know already teach writing as a process, this concept is explicitly reinforced by the Common Core Standards, which require students to work all the way through the writing process, take feedback, and even put that feedback into practice.  It's pretty wonderful, if you ask me.  I love having a standard I can point to as evidence that revision is important for my reluctant-revisers!  Today we're just barely getting our toes wet in the planning stages, but I like to do a "progress report" to find out where students are at on an almost-daily basis to keep them on task.  In reality, many of my students will probably just have Googled their topic information right before my class period to get the assignment "done," rather than "done well," but asking them about it (and reinforcing the idea that you WILL ask about it) forces them to be accountable for their planning (or lack thereof).  

So knowing that I probably won't have all-star topics today, I still take the few minutes out of my morning to gather this information.  I'm primarily interested in making sure that they used or plan to use sources that are credible news organizations, as poor sources have been a continual spur in my side.  I know there is tons of research that supports how tech-savvy students have become, but they still need help to find credible sources.  I think that perhaps since I grew up without the Internet, I've always been somewhat suspicious of the material that is there until it's been completely vetted.  These students have never had that suspicion and are, in effect, WAY too trusting.

I also get the preliminary feedback about their topic selection as a sneaky way to learn more about students interests for our discussions today.  I find myself building examples on a nearly-continual basis as we're building background knowledge, so the more I know about student interests, the better-suited I can make my examples!  I think asking students to "report on their progress" aloud also helps motivate students to get the work done on time so they are not fumbling around in front of their peers.  It took me about 5 years to figure out that students have no qualms about being unprepared for ME, but they really don't like beingpublicly unprepared.  The Common Core standards have a wonderful Speaking and Listening standard about coming to class prepared and ready for discussion, so anything I can do to help motivate them to take the initiative to meet this standard, I will do!  The more they know these "progress reports" are a part of the daily routine, the more they will make sure to come to class prepared, which makes life easier for all of us!

While students are sharing sources and topics, I will be validating great source choices, interesting or unique topics, and reminding students to consider their topic's relevance to high school students and the audience's interest and knowledge level.  I like to do this in a whole-group setting as well, because students can gather class feedback on interest and knowledge levels immediately by utilizing their peers as needed.  Pretty much every year I have a handful of students intent on writing research papers on EXTREMELY technical topics or very remote topics, and I have learned in the past that there is very little I can do to deter them from these types of topics (short of simply denying it, but I think there's a lesson to be learned there on their part) if they want to do them, regardless of the relevance to the audience.  That cycle, in my experience, is broken when an idea like this is presented to a class, which is polled for interest or knowledge.  Students are again much more likely to defer to their peers' judgment, which ultimately works out better for everyone (though it is a rather scary perspective on peer pressure...).  

  The "Progress Report" Breakthrough
  Accountability: The "Progress Report" Breakthrough
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Gettin' Political with the Transcendentalists

Unit 4: Arguing with the Transcendentalists Mini-Unit
Lesson 7 of 7

Objective: SWBAT identify and evaluate the effectiveness of argumentative elements and word choice in Emerson's "Self-Reliance" and Thoreau's "Civil-Disobedience."

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