Tag Archives: teaching

Team-Based Learning and the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique in English Classes

It’s the time of year when discussion about how to effectively teach students to be successful on multiple-choice tests has increased.

Let’s be clear: Like just about every teacher out there, I hate test prep.

I want every day in my classes to be about authentic learning and assessment. There is rarely anything authentic about multiple-choice tests. On the other hand, the reality for my students, whether they are in my AP classes or my regular English 9 classes, is that they will face stressful multiple choice exams in high school. In Michigan, a portion of our state-mandated test is the SAT, so our students take the PSAT as 9th and 10th graders and the SAT as 11th graders. In 11th grade, they also take additional multiple choice tests in science and social studies, and many begin taking AP tests to earn college credit. I want my students to feel prepared for these tests, but I struggled for many years with how to do that in a way that still feels authentic for their learning. Then I discovered Team-Based Learning. I wrote about TBL when I first used it three years ago, but I thought an update was in order.

Writers Write — and So Do Teachers of Writers

My writing/reading spot.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on six different writing projects in my professional life — two blog posts, two chapter proposals with a colleague, and two proposals for presentations for the 2017 NCTE Annual Convention with different collaborators. The process of writing for various audiences, purposes, and situations has reminded me not only that I enjoy writing, but that I am a better teacher of writing when I regularly write — whether for personal or professional circumstances.  I know I am probably preaching to the converts here, but being a reflective writer makes me a better writing teacher in some very concrete ways.

Recognizing the Struggle. Writing is hard. When I am writing myself, I remember what is challenging about the process, and I recognize the places where I want to quit. I am also reminded of the strategies I use to overcome difficult portions or writer’s block. For instance, I remember that I need time for an idea to germinate. Taking breaks, going for walks, and talking with others are essential parts of my process, but often, they get squelched in my classroom. I remember, too, that sometimes I just have to write through the challenges – trying to get what I can down on paper and knowing that I can improve it later. Most importantly, though, I remember that I don’t have to be alone as a writer — that I can reach out to others for collaboration and feedback during the process not just when I complete the first draft. Transferring what I know about my process into my classroom means committing to an environment that values thought, conversation, and collaboration along the way. It also means sharing my strategies more explicitly with students with my own real rough drafts.

Reflecting on Reading in the High School Classroom

You know that feeling when you keep hearing the same message from every corner of the universe? That’s been my experience lately, and the message has been about reading.

I knew some reflection would be in order – as it always is at the end of a school year – and that this year my reflections would center on the way I changed my reading instruction and practices after our department participated in intensive professional development last summer through the Reading Apprenticeship Improving Secondary Education (RAISE) program.  What I had not counted on, however, was the degree to which the conversation about reading and best practices has amped up in the past couple of months. My favorite bloggers, my favorite authors, my colleagues, and even my students are all talking about reading, which means I have the opportunity to reflect on my own practices with the research-backed, innovative practices of my favorite people.  Here are pieces of the conversation that have resonated most with me as I reflect on my own year.

Grant Wiggins has been really digging into the research behind literacy, asking the question, “What does the research on literacy really tell us about how kids learn to read and comprehend?”  His initial post outlines what we know and what we don’t know about comprehension:

What we know... What we don’t know…
Students who comprehend well use metacognitive strategies. How do students internalize the skills and strategies to be  good comprehenders?
Students who do not comprehend well make fewer inferences. What unique learning capacities and challenges do middle and high school readers face?
Readers at the secondary level identify their struggles at the sentence or paragraph level rather than the word level. How does direct instruction in comprehension strategies affect older students?
Slowing down reading as material becomes more challenging predicts better comprehension. What is the impact of these strategies over the long term?
Instructional frameworks such as questioning, reciprocal teaching, and collaborative strategic teaching show great promise for improving reading comprehension. Why is there not more current and longitudinal research of the impact of strategy instruction at the secondary level?
Key concepts like gradual release of learning and transfer of learning are central to solid intentional teaching of reading comprehension strategies. Does strategy instruction transfer to new class, texts, and experiences?

to be continued…

Evolving Literacy

Literacy has been on my mind again lately. It should be. I’m an English teacher, after all. What I have really been thinking about, though, is the rapid change in what it means to be literate for the future. Some people wonder whether books will die in an era of e-readers or whether cursive will become extinct. The real question, though,

Be a Teacher

(This was a piece that I wrote during the Chippewa River Writing Project summer institute.)

_________________________________________

Molly finished ringing up my order and placed my produce into a bag.

“That’ll be $16.34,” she said, and then barely taking a breath, she asked, “Ms. Neyer, do you think teaching is a good career to go in to?”

To Go or to Grow?

Every teacher must at some point question staying with the profession.  My moment came last fall.  Oddly, this was not a case of my asking whether I still enjoyed the job; I do without a doubt. 

Lessons

Did you ever have one of those epiphanies where you feel like everything in the universe is pointing you in one direction? This year has been that for me.  And who am I to ignore the universe when it is hollering at me?

First Post!

Finally!  This is School in a Small Town World!  And the views here are my own.

Though I have had many websites over the years, I am now joining the blogosphere.  I’ve always used writing as a means of figuring things out: in my teaching, in my life, and in my thinking.  Now more than ever, the world has gotten smaller; technology gives us the opportunity to share with and learn from others across the globe.  I look forward to sharing what I am writing, what I am reading, and what I am thinking.  Stay tuned…