Stories From The Front Line

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 03
  • 2006

In-class Work Time

When teachers allow time to be used in class to write or read or work on assignments, do we hold students accountable? If students choose not to do any of the options you’ve laid out and instead just sit and gaze off into the distance daydreaming, are there repercussions of that choice? How can classes be structured to encourage students to work during class, using school time to complete assignments instead of using their personal time away from school, but prevent students from simply zoning out, starring at that one spot on the wall? I asked all classes if this was a valuable use of time today and they all said yes. But isn’t that the response you’d give if you hadn’t done the assignment and you were allowed to just stare at your paper all period, trying hard to look like you’re trying hard? I know I would.

In class work time, a waste of time? Or a useful resource?

I’m trying to encourage students to have more input on how class is run, treating them with some of the responsibility that society will soon deem fit to thrust upon them, by asking them to make decisions on how we spend our time. Figuring out how to do that without encouraging students to take the easy route is the challenge.

Our Work Days

The last two days in my English classes have been filled with time to work on writing. It seems like most students are using that time, though I suppose the final writing will bear that fruit or not. In any case, I feel good about the time we’ve had the last few days to take care of some business and for me to show models of writing to smaller groups, to talk with people about their specific writing. That’s my favorite part of this job, a part I don’t get to do very often since I’m leading whole class discussion or instruction or something similar.

More Nonfiction

Filling out a grant application, harping on my ideas from an earlier post, and glancing through a copy of the 2006 Beford/St. Martin’s High School Language Arts catalog, I plan to create, if not purchase, a nonfiction reader for my classes next year, based on what I put together this year. Turned in to reproduction early enough, the reader could be ready on the first day of classes in August. I wonder if it’s cheaper to reproduce a reader or buy enough copies of a text. Surely, reproduction is cheaper and under the “for educational purposes” clause of any copyright statement.

The thing I like about these units I’m working on with the kids is that they prevent me from spinning my wheels too long on one topic or one novel or one short story. That’s a huge flaw in my teaching and it certainly doesn’t make things easy. Short units on a topic mean that I have to get everything in under 2 or 3 weeks. I give the students a deadline for the final written product, prepare some readings on the topic, and we set intermediate due dates as a class. One the deadline day, that’s it! And we move on. Oh, we’ll come back to these topics in April or May, when we start the editing process for inclusion in the class anthology, but we’re able to produce a final version of the writing in a short amount of time.

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