The department will start the year focusing on WRITTEN EXPRESSION (which always impacts how we communicate verbally and non-verbally in our world). Teachers will also be reading Write Like This, by Kelly Gallagher, in order to generate strategies around:
- Elevating student writing through mentor texts and modelling
- Developing real-world writing purposes
- Helping students inform, explain, evaluate, explore, analyze and argue through numerous assignments
- Giving students opportunity to read, then emulate good writing
Data will be gathered in Spring of 2018 to determine how teachers and students feel implementation of these Calls to Action are impacting student learning.
While continuing to implement our understanding our modern learning strategies in the classroom, we tried to address and increase student engagement in a variety of ways. Some of the teachers in the department have focused on inquiry strategies, while others have dealt with assessment and the infusion of technology. The result was indeed increased student engagement.
Allowing students choice in their reading selections proved to be very successful as the level of engagement skyrocketed. This had the unforeseen benefit of the majority of the students wanting to read books for fun. What would have been a unit based on a single dystopian novel changed into a unit wherein students chose to read an additional four or five novels of the same genre. Ultimately, students created a dystopian film using characters from 20 other dystopian texts. This allowed students to create, write, evaluate, assess, synthesize, infer, transform ideas, etc. They designed the project, created it and evaluated the project. Other teachers used literature circles to provide students choice. The issue of providing choice in reading, and time for reading has also been the focus of one of the department collaboration groups. The goal is to encourage students to continue to read for fun both in and out of the classroom.
Some teachers choose to focus more on individual student inquiry focusing on one-on-one conferencing with students to articulate action plans. Students focused on areas of interest while also making specific choices focused on curriculum goals and tasks that revealed content understanding as well as achievement on that goal.
For others, assessment strategies became a focus. Rubrics were reworked to reflect the current philosophies related to assessment. Percentages and numbers have been set aside and the focus has shifted to learning rather than grades. Students appeared to be ‘less stressed’ when receiving this kind of assessment.
One teacher went beyond the learning and teaching that occurs in the classroom to create videos on lessons or concepts presented in class. The purpose of these videos was to allow the students who did not understand a complicated concept to revisit the ideas at home where no peer judgment occurs. Additional copies of lessons and assignments are also uploaded by many teachers so that students have access to any documents they might need.