Student Writing Prompt – “Identity”

What experiences or traits make you who you are? Why are they so important to your identity? Explain.

I often use this prompt early in the term, because it helps me get to know my new students. It lets me know how they see themselves, both in what they say and the way they express their ideas.

One of the themes that shows up in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the idea that “we are who we choose to be.” I like that. I like the agency it gives us. And even though it places responsibility on us, which is normally burdensome, it is the responsibility of significance. We matter. What we do matters. What we choose matters.

So. Who do I choose to be? Continue reading

Whose Responsibility Is It?

My first syllabus had two signature lines – one for the student, one for the parent. The idea was that they would read it, contact me with any questions, and then sign to indicate that they understood the expectations. The syllabus was returned to me and kept on file as evidence of parent contact.

The problem with this was that after a few weeks passed, nobody remembered what was on the syllabus! So I added a dotted line above the signatures and asked students to keep the syllabus at home and return just the signatures. The problem with that was that I had no way to show what had originally been signed – and quite often, the syllabus was lost anyway.

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The Myth of Laziness

“Bryan’s got plenty of ability; he’s just lazy.” “There’s no reason Susan can’t get her homework done; she’s just lazy.” “I should have studied more for that test. I guess I was just being lazy.”

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard remarks like these about students – from their parents, from other teachers, and sometimes, even from themselves. The problem is, it’s a load of nonsense. And I’m not putting up with it anymore.

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Read-Aloud Rules

Many of my students HATE reading out loud. They are often self-conscious about their pronunciation abilities. For those who are good readers, reading aloud forces them to slow down, and they can easily get impatient.

However, reading aloud makes us interact with the text in a different way. Research suggests that it can improve retention. It forces us to focus on the text, and invites us to engage with it more deeply. I find that setting a few ground rules for reading aloud makes students more willing to at least attempt this seemingly unconquerable mountain of a task. Continue reading

Student Writing Prompt – “Respect”

“Respect” – The syllabus talks about respect. What does showing respect to someone look like? Should you always show respect to other people? Why or why not?

The idea behind this prompt is that I want to get students to think about being clear and precise in their word choices. In the syllabus, “respect” is used as a synonym for courtesy. “Showing respect” therefore means doing things such as listening to what others have to say, thinking before you speak, considering others’ attitudes and desires, sharing, waiting your turn, that sort of thing.

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Student Writing Prompt – “Prediction”

Reflection 01 – Prediction: Based on your previous experiences in English classes, what do you think English I will be like? What would “being successful” in this class look like for you? Do you think you will be successful? What will you do to work toward success?

I’ve been teaching English II almost exclusively for several years. For the past two years, I’ve had English II Honors. So returning to working with freshmen is going to be interesting. I’m familiar with the course material, and I have some new ideas that I’m really excited about trying out. Continue reading

The Power of Parents

At the beginning of each semester, I make an effort to contact a parent or guardian for each student by phone. I try to do this during the second week of class. Usually by that point, all class changes are final, and my roster will be somewhat settled.

I say I “try” to do it during week 2, because if I’m honest, I’m lucky to get it done that quickly. Since we’re on semester blocks, I only have half of my class load at a time, which does make it easier than if I had all of my students for the full year. But it’s still a chore and a hassle. Many of the telephone numbers that we have in our records have been changed or are out of service. It doesn’t help that some of the telephone numbers in our district require ten-digit dialing WITH a one, and some require ten-digit dialing WITHOUT a one, or that there’s now only one telephone on each hall to be shared by all teachers who use that work room.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Continue reading

Classroom Anarchy

“You can’t make me!”

One of the defining moments of my youth was when I told my mother I wasn’t going to try out for track again my sophomore year. I’d run cross country and track as a freshman, and cross country in the fall of my sophomore year. And I hadn’t liked any of it. So I hadn’t planned on signing up again.

She pushed a bit, urging me to change my mind. Now, she was very reasonable about it, pointing out that I didn’t have physical education as a class and that physical activity is an important element to maintaining optimum health. Both very good points.

Didn’t matter. I didn’t want to do it. And maybe this is imagination painting details into memory, but I distinctly remember using the phrase, “and you can’t make me.” Continue reading