I have struggled for weeks to identify in a coherent manner what I want to focus on for my Cohort Action Plan. Selfishly, I have used a challenge I’m facing in preparing for an upcoming unit as the foundation for my action plan. So, ladies and gentlemen, without further delay, here is the 2015 Spring Action Plan:
Problem/Challenge: I want to see if an emphasis on SKILLS rather than CONTENT, on STUDENT CHOICE rather than TEACHER DIRECTED texts and evaluations, results in a learning environment that is ENGAGED and PROMOTES CRITICAL THINKING
a) I want students to be able to show their understanding in a form that will best illustrate their strengths.
b) I want students to ask themselves how literature can challenge our understanding of ourselves, our community, and our world.
c) I want to focus on skill development and get away from being chained to content. The content of the novels is the means by which students do two things: make authentic connections AND develop and refine skills.
So, with the help of Erica Chellew (Derek Doucet’s better half), and during dedicated collaborative time (thanks LCS for giving teachers this protected time), I worked to brainstorm what mattered to me for this unit, starting with my Essential Question, Thinking about the Skills I wanted the students to develop, then moving on to how we integrate student choice in order to promote authentic engagement. Here’s a photo of that brainstorm session:
Here is my action plan:
a) Allow students to choose from one of four texts: The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, or The Beach (question: why am I limiting them? Can I just let them choose whatever fiction book they want and then clear it with me?)
b) Students will be focussing on skills development vs content understanding for this unit. Three key skills that will be evaluated: 1. Close Reading skills (using tech or no tech), 2. Pastiche writing (identification of style, rhetorical devices), and 3. Authentic Connection between Poetry and Text. Students will find a poem that they feel reflects the EQ and their chosen text. (Question: why did I choose these skills? How will they connect to the EQ through these assignments? Does that matter?)
c) Students will use reflection journals to discuss what they are reading, what they are learning, and questions they have about their learning. I will create a Google Form that will be tied to a DocAppender App. These forms will act as an Entry and Exit ticket for each of our lessons, and I will give students a minor grade for the quality and thoughtfulness of their reflections. (Question: is this the only place where students will show their content understanding? I need to get a dialogue going in these journals (google docs) so students know I”m reading and engaging with them outside of class; promote reading!)
d) Harkness Discussions: rather than having the teacher create the question or prompt for discussion, students will prepare for the Harkness Discussion by creating questions that will promote a better understanding of how a text answers the essential question: how does literature challenge our understandings of self, community and world?
e) Students can choose one of two summative evaluation choices at the end: a close reading + poetry connection OR writing a pastiche and then annotating that writing. All students will participate in an interview with their teacher, using student-created questions that they can prepare for in advance. Example ideas for questions: What did you learn as a result of this unit? How does your book challenge your understanding of yourself and your role in this world? How might your ability to be a good close reader improve your life? (question: do all students HAVE to do the interview? Does this disadvantage non-native speakers? How can I address that?)
This action plan looks a lot like a unit plan. Sorry about that! But ultimately, this is a plan to create a student-focussed learning environment that promotes critical thinking and holds students accountable for their learning. I welcome your thoughts, ideas, criticisms, feedback, and recipes for success. Thanks!