As an eighth grade English teacher in East Los Angeles, I have had ample opportunity to reflect on my practice and hone it to perfection. Ha! Perfection is ever elusive, as are those perfect little students of our college professors’ dreams. This year, as always, I have planned ways to improve my practice. Not surprisingly, most of these have to do with improving the students’ experience of my classroom.
Resolution One: Include more opportunities for Art. I try to include many chances for students to do art in the classroom. My newest is to create a “literary mosaic”. Students draw a picture of their favorite scene in each chapter of a novel, then put them all together at the end of the book to create a pictorial representation of the significant moments of the story. More of this!
Resolution Two: More opportunities for Creative Writing. I have always shunned this due to the high demand required of my grading time. However, I have discovered tremendous talent in some of my students, and tremendous deficits in others that guide my direct instruction. Which leads me to…
Resolution Three: More direct instruction in grammar. When I taught high school I decried my students’ lack of basic grammatical knowledge. However, when teaching the eighth grade, I find myself so caught up in fighting to engage student interest that basic grammar instruction has all but disappeared from my classroom. This must come back.
Resolution Four: Provide more opportunities for student voices to be heard. After hearing the feedback that students like my class, but that I talk too much, I find myself with the task of creating more avenues to force them to do the talking.
Resolution Five: Decorate the room. My walls are filled with student work, regulated legal postings, academic vocabulary, etc. But it has little character of its own. I resolve to make my walls more interesting so that when students are off-task and staring at the walls, something interesting awaits them there.
If I do all of this, hopefully, the New Year will bring more engaged students, more interesting conversations, and higher test scores. Wish me luck!