Wednesday, May 20, 2009

End game strategy

As the year rambles to a close, it's worth noting one device I've employed that's allowed (at least thus far) for a relatively smooth finish - the distribution of end-of-year timelines in all three of my classes.

The week before April vacation I toiled as an alchemist, combining curriculum goals, the school calendar, and computer lab availability to create documents that detailed all the major activities I'd be doing with my seniors in World Literature, freshmen in Accelerated English, and juniors and seniors in Journalism. The guiding document wasn't too challenging to create for Journalism, as this is something I already do with each production schedule of our newspaper.

The 9th and 12th grade courses took a bit more planning, as I had to figure out the due dates for homework, a quiz and assessment schedule, and time for class discussions, mini-lessons, and group projects. My seniors (two days left!) finished the year with a research paper and Lord of the Flies. The 9th graders are ending with poetry, Romeo & Juliet, and a mini non-fiction unit that dovetails with R & J in the form of a "Verona Times" newspaper creation assignment.

Because I've taught the same classes for a couple of years, I am familiar with the curriculum, what I want my students to learn, how I want them to demonstrate what they've learned, and what they'll need from me to help them do it. I know the pitfalls. I know the potential snags. Of course there are always things I don't account for, but usually they're manageable, and don't impede our progress through the class itineraries.

Another thing that helps make these "unit syllabi" work is my administration's ability to minimize end-of-year class disruptions. I routinely read about other teachers whose classes are continuously disrupted by assemblies, events, and special gatherings that usually rear their heads with little - if any - advanced notice. My administrators aren't like that. They generally give ample notice of such events, and work to keep them at a minimum. The benefit of this cannot be understated.

To view my Romeo & Juliet schedule, click here.

This link will take you to the Lord of the Flies assignment and activity timeline.

The Journalism article & production schedule can be found here.


Mr. B-G said...

UPDATE - I was just informed today that I need to give up two days next week for a "career unit" presentation from the guidance department for my 9th graders. Oh well. More advanced notice would have been nice, but the reality is that I'll be able to make adjustments and still stay true to my schedule for the most part.

The loss of two class periods means students will need to read more of Romeo & Juliet outside of class, and we'll miss out on some opportunities for discussion.

So it goes. If there's anything I've learned in my five years of teaching high school English, it's that one quickly learns to go with the flow - even if its direction isn't your choosing - and that when someone asks a favor of you, the appropriate answer 99% of the time is YES. Because more often than not, the people to whom you grant favors will end up repaying you in kind.

Anonymous said...

Mr. B-G,

I stumbled upon your blog while teching a computer and technology in education Masters class at Michigan State. I like the format of your blog, and found many of your resources and schedules very helpful. In many of the methods classes, it seems that you learn about literature or about writing, and they forget to teach you how to teach it. It is nice to have a place to come to get fresh ideas for assignments to jump start my own creativity. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to reading my own editions of Verona Times!

Justin Taylor
Grand Blanc High School

Mr. B-G said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks very much for visiting. I'm glad my blog has helped spur your ideas! I've taken a break from posting this summer, but as school starts up again I plan to get back into blogging and sharing new resources.

Have a great year.