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.
SPRING 2018 ACTIONS AND REFLECTIONS
OVERVIEW: What we did
Our action plan evolved over several sessions of collaboration, from a vague “something to do with better communication…can we just say #Communication?!?” to the following:
Modelling written tasks and skills to improve student written output and confidence as writers
Our focused statement came from what English teachers felt they needed to benefit their classrooms, previous experiences with modeling, and our chapter-by-chapter exploration of Kelly Gallagher’s Write Like This.
We shared many points of agreement with Gallagher, starting with his assertion in Chapter One that “the need to write cealry and quickly has never been more important than in today’s highly competitive, technology-driven, global economy” (his emphasis). The text is organized by writing purpose – Inform and Explain, Evaluate and Judge, Inquire and Explore, etc. – to support Gallagher’s two central premises:
- Introduce young writers to real-world discourses
- Provide students with extensive teacher and real-world models
As English teachers, we found we could support such assertions, and welcomed the opportunity to further implement them in our classrooms.
In each collaboration session, we focused on two chapters and the purposes, skills and sample exercises laid out in each. Our central exercise was to model writing skills for our students, but we also attempted many of the exercises in the text, and reflected on their usefulness to our central plan of action. This was particularly useful to the classroom practices of newer teachers.
We started each meeting with discussion around questions that helped us to get to know one another and our teaching styles, and also benefit the greater discussion around what is working in our English teaching practice that others may want to consider. These questions included:
- What are characteristics of learner-centred classrooms?
- What feedback is most effective, and how do we make it timely and efficient?
- What is a recent exercise that engaged the widest range of students in their interests and abilities?
To read the rest of the report, please click on the link below:
Reflections from the 2017 Action Plan
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.