My last day of school is today, but I’ve already been thinking ahead to next year. As I read the end of year surveys from my students and reflect back on the lessons that went well and the ones that didn’t go as planned, I develop some things to work on over the summer for the following year. Summer break is a great time to focus on the big picture because I’m not weighed down by the day to day responsibilities of being in the classroom. So here are the things I’ll be working on (and blogging about) over the summer to improve the learning experience for my students.
Annotation is a skill that I want my students to have when they need it. I need to spend the first couple of weeks of school helping kids develop a good strategy for doing it. There’s no formula for what good annotating should look like, but I want to help students develop a method that works for them. I know that it can be a skill that makes students dislike reading, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. I want it to be a skill that promotes understanding and critical thinking and adds to the classroom environment. It should be something that “good students do” and not something they just do because I require it.
I don’t do as much with theme as I would like to and I frequently feel like I have to spoon feed the concepts to them. I’d like them to have a good working knowledge of some of the common themes in literature as well as the ability to pick them out of the books they read. To be honest, I’m not very good at teaching theme, so I need to brush up on my skills in this area.
Many of my students are perfectly happy letting me tell them everything they need to know on tests and papers. I always have a couple of classes that can manage whole class discussions well, but other classes where it fails miserably.
My goal for my seniors next year is that when they go to college they automatically come to their classes prepared with something they would like to discuss and a willingness to initiate that discussion. If I set this expectation early on in the class and am willing to sit through some uncomfortable classes while students get the drift of what I expect, I think I’ll be able to get what I want. The right work outside of class will help with this too.
I need to include more creativity in my lessons. Creative activities tend to be an afterthought – something I do when I can’t think of something else to do. I need to build creative activities into my lesson plans from the start. Creative activities can feel like busy work, but they have the potential to be engaging learning experiences for the students. Students learn differently, and adding some creative responses helps meet the needs of diverse learners.
This has nothing to do with the classroom and everything to do with my colleagues. I had a very busy year because I was taking graduate level English classes all year and tended to have more work than I could handle. I can be pretty task oriented at school anyway, and I don’t take the time to talk to the amazing people I work with about random things. This coming year I’d like to relax a bit more at school and have those conversations.
If you have any great ideas about how to do any of these things, let me know. I’d love to hear them.
David Rickert is a high school English teacher in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He has been teaching for over 20 years and has taught virtually every grade and every subject. He is passionate about developing lessons that make difficult language arts subjects fun and engaging. He is also an author on Teachers Pay Teachers.