Summer is the time to take a deep breath, reflect, and revise for the school year ahead. There are certain aspects of my teaching that are non negotiables – the things that I will not change and or I am committed to in helping to reach and teach ALL my students. As an English Language Arts teacher in a middle school, I am teaching students; it’s not all about the content material. With that being said, these are the elements of my classroom that have become the “everys.”
1. The Interactive English Notebook – Three years ago I became a devoted fan of the interactive notebook and since then, I have been creating my own content to support my students as readers and writers. The interactive notebook has become my textbook and portfolio of what students are studying and learning. Keeping my promise to the earth to use a little paper as possible, I only make photocopies of the interactive foldables for my students; worksheets have been eliminated and Google Docs and Forms have become tools for assessments, surveys, and responses outside of the notebooks.
2. Article of the Week – I assign little homework. In addition to independent readings outside of class (30 minutes a night Sunday – Thursday), the one outside assignment that I offer to my students is an article of the week. The “Article of the Week” was created by educator and author, Kelly Gallagher as a way to build prior knowledge and background. I assign students an article of the week every Monday and students have until Thursday to complete the close reading and reflection assignment. This year I am piloting a digital article of the week with Actively Learn. Actively Learn houses thousands of free articles and assignments or teachers can upload their own. Here is the thing about homework in my classrooms, students do not get graded on their homework, students earn game points for completed homework. Points equal priviledges. I talk more about the game platform next.
3. Classcraft Gaming Platform – Each student has an avatar and is on a team. The objective of the game is to gain as many points as possible to unlock privileges like extra days on homework, access to test questions, or extended bathroom breaks. Students work together, as well as individually, throughout the school year earning points based on quiz grades, homework completion, and classroom interactions. This game platform allows for positive peer collaboration and camaraderie, it is a motivational tool for most of my students, and students are rewarded for positive behaviors (and vise versa, lose points for negative behaviors).
4. Reading/Writing Workshop – Returning to my Teacher College roots, I am reinstating the reading and writing workshop in my classroom. As I mentioned prior, I am not teaching a book, I am teaching readers and writers. I want to offer as much time in my classroom for my students to read and write and foster a love of words. Although I do not teach in a block schedule, I will have reading workshop twice a week and writing workshop twice a week for a total of 80 minutes each a week for independent reading and writing, read alouds, and mini lessons.
5. Genius Hour – Friday is Genius Hour. Students will work on a project of their choice with the foundation that it has to benefit the “community.” I am thinking about class blogs for students to write monthly entries of their research and genius work to share with the world the amazing projects dreamed up.
What are your everys or non negotiables? Please share or comments on this blog.