Today was the last day of our school year.
And here’s a photo with just a few of the many wonderful students I taught this year:
I thought the last day of school would be a good time for me to take some time and reflect on what I want to do the same – and differently – to make next year an even better one!
Here is what I’ve come up with – please share your own reflections in the comments section:
BEGINNING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS:
* One thing I did differently this year was spend a shorter amount of time (a few months instead of most of the school year) using the Picture Word Induction Model (see The Best Resources About Inductive Learning & Teaching) before I moved students into more formal academic writing. That change seemed to work quite well, and was facilitated by having a bilingual aide work more intensively with newcomers while I was working with the larger numbers of High Beginners/Low Intermediates.
*One effective task our aide did with the newcomers was explicit phonics instruction done inductively (see The Best Articles & Sites For Teachers & Students To Learn About Phonics). I plan on starting that sooner than I did this year.
* After a fair amount of trial-and-error, I was able to identify some decent resources to support our newcomers who were not literate in their home language (see The Best Online Resources For Teachers of Pre-Literate ELL’s & Those Not Literate In Their Home Language). I’m hoping to spend more time reading Carol Salva’s new book on teaching students with interrupted formal education (see New Book Excerpt: Supporting ELL Students With Interrupted Formal Education) to get some more ideas. Thirteen years ago, I had a lot of experience teaching pre-literate Hmong refugee students, but it’s a different world today, including different cultures.
* Next year, we’re going to make sure our Beginners take a full period each day just focused on verbal skills taught by a talented colleague (see Here’s A Plan For An Oral Skills Class Next Year – Please Help Make It Better!) and I think that it will make a world of difference.
* I’m happy that I did not repeat my biggest teaching mistake (see I Talk About My Biggest Teaching Mistake In This Radio Interview) and took back a period of my Beginning ELL class from a student teacher when it became very large and diverse (she then took over from me teaching our ELL World History class).
* This summer, Katie Hull and I are writing our third book on teaching ELLs. We both experimented with a number of new instructional strategies this year, and our writing over the next two months will give us a chance to reflect on them. As we all know, writing helps us think better, and I’m hoping that this process will help me implement many of these strategies more effectively and systematically next year!
IB THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE
* I made a lot of changes in my IB Theory of Knowlege classes (you can read about many of them, including accessing tons of lesson plans and materials, at The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2016 – Part Two and The Best Theory Of Knowledge Resources In 2017 – So Far). I’m happy to say that most, if not all, worked well.
* I have students regularly provide anonymous evaluations of my classes and me (see The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers) ). Evaluations are generally very positive, but were even more positive this year. I attribute that result to many of the changes I made to the class.
* In that evaluation, several students did comment on the clutter in my room. That was a well-founded critique, and this week moved many materials into a storage closet across from my room. I can access materials from there when needed instead of keeping them all in my room.
* When I introduce class evaluations, I always request that students take it very seriously and help me become a better teacher. This year, though, I made an addition. I said that they should feel free to make a funny comment if they wanted, but that it had to be accompanied by a serious one. Not only did that admonition, I believe, result in more substantial evaluations, but it also meant I received more and funnier comments than I have received in the past. I hope to compile them in the next week or two. Several were along with lines of “He is a good teacher considering he is an old man.” After reading them, I assured my classes that I would somehow identify who wrote those lines and hunt them down 🙂
ELL SOCIAL STUDIES CLASSES
* I like the curriculum I’ve developed for my ELL World History, U.S. History and Geography classes (you can see much of it at our class blogs). I pretty much supervised student teachers in all of them. I think I got very lucky this year with some very talented teacher candidates, and know that I can’t count on that happening every year. Future ones (like some others I’ve had in the past) might require far great supervision than I gave this year, and I have to spend some time this summer figuring out how to make that happen.
* One regret I have is not encouraging the student teacher in my Geography class to implement sister class projects (see Links To The Joint Projects My ELL Geography Class Did With Classes Around The World – Want To Join Us This Year?). I don’t want to make that same mistake next year.
As you can see, I still have a lot to think about.
But it’s a start.
What about you?
Larry, thank you for this thoughtful reflection. I had my students write a simple evaluation: three things they remember about the class, two things that could improve the class, and one thing they want to tell Ms. Zehr.
I was happy some students remembered my efforts to try to make my 11th and 12th grade English classes more lively. They remembered the entertaining personality of a local poet who helped them memorize a poem for a school Poetry OutLoud contest. They remembered “frozen tableau” activities. They remembered our field trip to see “Romeo and Juliet” and to see Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” at the Phillips Collection.
I received some thoughtful suggestions about class that I’m taking to heart. One student with advanced skills said I need to assign more independent work. I plan to create some extra assignments over the summer for the more advanced students. Also, quite a few students said I talk too much. When some students said this at the start of the year, I really tried to address this issue. I had students do a lot of reciprocal teaching in which they studied a book chapter in groups and taught it to other groups of students. I also started to set a timer for my explanations. But I need to continue to improve in supporting students to talk more and to talk less myself.