At this time of each school year, I get more excited for next year than I am for finishing out the current one. Teaching and testing fatigue set in and the next school year is an appealing fresh start. Testing time also gives me a moment to reflect on what needs to be adjusted. Add to that my eagerness to try the ideas of other CORElaborate bloggers and the excitement spills over into looking for a fresh, new lesson plan book. To help organize these ideas and not lose them over summer break, I keep a folder on my desk labeled “Ideas for Next Year.” A half a dozen better ways exist to organize this information, but the collection of it in a tangible form helps make sure that it is readily available whenever I want to sit down with it. When I am ready in the summer, I have all those “ah-ha” ideas in one spot.
Before you head out to parts unknown on summer break, this list might help build your “to-do” folder for next year.
- Implement Ted Talk Wednesdays: In a post found here, Rachel Wiley describes her use of Ted Talk Wednesdays. This fits perfectly with the listening and speaking standards for my Junior rhetoric units, as well as reinforcing the idea of argument and persuasion. As our Sophomore’s SBA scores come back, I am also looking to incorporate this into a unit at the 10th grade level for listening practice. This is not just for high school though. There are Ted Talks by younger students.
- Adding more Common Core stems: There are many, many days when the literature textbook questions do not meet the rigor of the Core. Not only do I plan on adapting some of the free resources (available in all grade levels) I found at Kids at the Core for my own assessment purposes, but I also want to put the question stems in my students’ hands more often. These stems can be a good start for developing questioning skills.
- Improve discussion quality: Blog author, Sean Riley, provides helpful strategies for improving questioning skills and discussion strategies at many levels. The link provides several resources to review for strategies.
- Use Zoom in the classroom: Our district recently purchased a license for this Skype-like program. In an effort to connect our small town students to resources and other cultural experiences, I would like to pick one unit for each class that connects them beyond the community. For example, Film Studies students will meet with the EWU Writing Center for feedback on papers, giving them an understanding of the possibilities of college resources. The list of applications is exciting and endless! Of course, Zoom is not required to connect students with the world beyond as there are numerous free programs.
- Utilize Google Sites: Google Classroom is great, but Google Sites can add the missing communication piece I keep running into. I have started a draft of my site here, which is a work in progress. Also, I would like my students to build their own site with pages for each unit, potentially using Google Sites as a note-taking resource or as a project for a research unit.
- Changing my approach to text annotation: Annie Jansen wrote a blog explaining how to help students access difficult texts. This approach seems very accessible for students and gives me a way to make the annotation process more concrete, and less contrived, than what I have tried in the past.
- Build student voice and ownership: Whether it is on paper or verbally, I am continually struck by the numbers of students who have a difficult time simply finding things to say. By focusing on blogs like Erin Lark’s (helping a student grow confident to speak publicly) and Rachel Wiley’s (students participate in a read-around of narratives), I hope to increase verbal responses. Kristen Labrie addresses both growth mindset and ownership of learning. Elizabeth Loftus also helps teachers tackle social and emotional skill building through several posts. Much of this fits with PBIS, which will be rolled out in my district next year.
- Fully incorporate proficiency scales: Each year I get a little closer to incorporating proficiency skills throughout my units. It still needs a lot of work though. Focusing on the principles of standards-based grading (here is one resource), as well as diving further into the Marzano proficiency scale bank will help. This is not work that is as fun as creating units that include Google sites or beginning TedTalk discussions, but it is essential for intentional learning.
- Try out Sketchnote: During the poetry unit for three different classes we illustrated the poems to make the meaning more concrete. Students were up for this as long as I was not grading their artistic ability–I never used them for assessments–and engagement was high. In Nicole Abel’s blog post, she lists a possible resource for expanding this into other units.
- Implement a maker space: I am in search of resources for implementing maker spaces in an ELA 9-12 classroom. Any suggestions would help!
Share your ideas for next year in the comments below.
Have an excellent summer break! Relax, recoup and reflect.
I enjoy working with teachers to pool our collective ideas and talents.To fill my teaching bucket in this way, I participate in the ESD 101 ELA Fellows, lead a community of practice for Bridge to College and enjoy working with the CorelaborateWa teachers.
I am in my twelfth year teaching; two doors down the hall, my husband is in his second year as an AgEd teacher and FFA adviser . Our two young daughters, 8 and 5, keep us crazy-- I mean busy--as we juggle 4-H, dance, basketball, t-ball and more.
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