Top five lessons for academic benefit (as voted on by students)

Today AP teachers in 27 states will get their students’ scores, while the rest of us obsessively login and refresh just in case they release them early in our area.  Following this score release is always a time for a mix of celebration, sometimes stupefaction, and always over-analyzation.  As I plan and think about next year, I am going to try to remember these ten lessons that made the made impact on my students either for enjoyment or for their academic benefit.

The following five lessons are the lessons that my students felt benefited them most this year for their academic benefit.  The percentages indicate how many students put these activities in their top-five for academic benefit.

Blogging about contemporary poets–75.7%

Simply stated blogging benefits student voice. I could see the benefits immediately and wrote this post featuring links to my student blogs in November. Finding inspiration from #teachlivingpoets and a user friendly platform on Edublogs led to a very successful first year of blogging for my students.  While I need to streamline my timeline of returning feedback to each student for their monthly blogs, a great added benefit was commenting on other classes from around the country and receiving comments on their own posts from these students. Instead of journaling in a notebook to only me, these students had an authentic peer-based audience. That is excellent motivation for well-developed analysis. In order to jazz-up the last few posts to push us to the finish line I had students choose from these 10 activities to connect to their poet’s work on another level.

Circle time for discussions–73%

cirlce timeOur classroom is more often set up in a circle than in any type of rows…and sometimes it is a square…and sometimes we are in small groups…and occasionally in pairs. You basically never know where the desks will be when you walk into F109. Students always get excited when we circle up, mainly for two reasons, they know they are going to get to talk, and they also know that they are not likely going to have to write a timed essay that day.

We circle up to discuss all major works periodically during our reading schedule, but also poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction. These types of discussions are why I wanted to teach high school. Students are passionate about what they think and how characters make them feel. My students’ hatred of Pappy in Mudbound was down right vicious…circle time is when all of that comes out. As the years go by, I continue to work on doing much less talking and much more listening and facilitating during these circle times.

Research Paper Process–70.3%

I am actually shocked that this made the list. I think the students become very honest research paperonce they realize that they will not have to write any more papers for me. I also strive for my class to prepare my students for their next level of education, and the research paper process is certainly part of this overall preparation. Rethinking the research paper also contributes to this being a meaningful process and one in which I do not dread grading the papers, but look forward to what they will teach me (mostly).

Multiple choice games–59.5%

EThis was another surprise, but multiple choice games are a time when students get to get out of their seats, so even if they have to spend 15 minutes answering 17 multiple choice questions with words in them such as penultimate, bucolic, didactic, and raze it makes it worth it. In this picture the entire class got the question correct–the answer was E! We have used a lot of different fun activities to check multiple choice including “Kick Me Multiple Choice,” but our class standard favorite is four-corners (and a middle) where each corner of the room is A-D and E is the center. Students rejoice when they see power in numbers as they move about the room, but sometimes it is the sulking three people hiding in the corner for A who end up getting the answer correct. Of course the discussion, as well as the vocabulary building, is the best part of this lesson.

Studying Clint Smith’s Counting Descent–54.1%

This was the only “lesson” that made it onto both this list for academic benefit and the clint smithlist of Top five lessons for enjoyment. This is first full collection of poetry that I have ever taught, and the students embraced it fully. We read every word, breaking the book into segments of 4-7 poems a day depending on the length and depth. We read outside, we read aloud, we read chorally. Students blogged about a poem of choice and wrote mentor text poetry based on a favorite poem. Skyping with the author was just the perfect culminating event for this collection. Students got to see a living, working poet who is excited about students reading his work. And now we all follow Clint Smith obsessively on Twitter.

You know what this tells me? Teaching a poetry collection was a step in the right direction. I plan to add another living poet’s voice to my classroom through Jose Olivarez collection Citizen Illegal which goes on sale on September 4th. After receiving an ARC (advanced reader copy–thank you Teacher Twitter!) I have created a Donor’s Choose project to get this collection into my students’ hands this fall.  Your donation to this goal would be so appreciated.

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