April 7, 2006

Alone in the spotlight

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:10 pm by mrsmauck

A couple weeks ago, I had to complete the most difficult assignment of my life. In my Teaching Strategies class, we had to compose a yearly unit plan for one class. What on earth?!! Half the class are teachers, so they probably pulled out their handy-dandy lesson plan notebooks, punched in their unit names from last year, checked out which state standards they met, and clicked Submit. Me, I’m in freakout mode. At 9 p.m. the night before it’s due. After I told my husband what my assignment was, he said, “I can’t believe you waited until now to do that.” And HE’S a HUGE slacker and procrastinator!! I was grasping at straws, racking my brain for books and plays and poems I read in high school, what teachers assigned us to do, surfing web English teacher like a madwoman…Up to now in my classes, teaching had been this abstract concept…talking about planning curriculum (but never actually planning it), philosophy of education, and research in education. Then I had my easy breezy English classes–Native American lit, Advanced Comp, yeah, yeah, yeah, been doing it for four years. I’ve been picturing myself as a teacher, but not planning it. Then this assignment hit me like a baby grande piano.

I ended up getting an A on the assignment, and my prof said it was a good yearly plan! I did a skeleton outline that night (after my brain had pretty much short-circuited from all the possbilities), drafted it out on a little road trip we had to make at work the next day, and then typed up the whole thing at work that afternoon. It’s funny, once I started actually examining literature from a teacher’s perspective, I got even more excited about the literature! When I can direct what people learn about it–the stuff that really stuck with me and affected me–learning is so cool. Here’s my basic outline for a year of freshman English:

  • Nine-week unit on conflict using Romeo & Juliet and The Outsiders (Final presentation: two courtroom dramas in which kids role-play as characters from the books. They have to prepare for their parts and accurately portray the context and character.)
  • Two-week unit on poetry (Kids make their own poetry booklets of poetry that speaks to them, five original poems, and illustrations)
  • Four-week unit on reading and research: Kids alternate with literature circles and research for their paper.
  • Six-week unit on The Odyssey. Students take their own odyssey, writing a travelogue of a journey they take to four places they’ve always wanted to visit (requires research).
  • Four-week unit on writing for particular audiences. Students create job application portfolio, write op-ed article (persuasive writing), a magazine profile, and create a print advertisement. (Oklahoma Language Arts standards include mass communications.)
  • Three-week unit on To Kill a Mockingbird. The unit will really be on compassion and tolerance (walking in someone else’s skin), and they will look at poems, art, and real-life stories from the times of desegregation.

This isn’t a ready-to-use yearly plan, but it was definitely a good experience. I just bought this book called English Teacher’s Survival Guide off Amazon, and it’s giving me some great ideas. For one thing, I think I would begin the year with a less involved unit, one on writing, so I can see where my students are, and then remediate as necessary. Then I would know how much grammar, punctuation and usage stuff I have to work in. Anyway, the most difficult assignment of my life will soon be a reality, when I’m looking at planning actual yearly plans for actual students!!

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