Sharing the Task of Learning: Using Think-Pair-Shares in a Digital World

By David Nurenberg

Even more so than in a physical classroom, teachers in an online environment can’t expect to only lecture—whether in real time or in a downloadable video—and have their students learn. Fortunately, some go-to strategies of more student-centered learning translate well to an online environment.

The “Think Pair Share” (TPS) is a useful tool for engaging every single student in doing something, and for holding them accountable for their learning. Students begin by thinking through a problem or question and writing down their thoughts. This writing can make for good formative assessment, but only if it’s graded on a “did it/didn’t do it” basis, or else students may be too scared to experiment with their ideas. Next, they compare thoughts with a partner, and both students refine their understanding. They share out further with a small group of four or five before the teacher brings the entire class back together to engage with the lesson.

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Journaling: Creating the Feel of School Virtually

By Christa Forster

I miss the physicality of school. By “physicality,” I do not mean physical education, nor do I mean movement exactly. I mean all the ephemera we leave in our wakes as we sail—smoothly or tempest-tossed—through our daily schedules, together yet apart. Heads tilted toward one another, whispering or chatting, sighing or groaning; nods and waves and smiles during passing period; laughter in the halls during quiet moments in class; the pods of bodies in the cafeteria or library; the forlorn study guides, spiral notebooks, binders, water bottles, hoodies on the floors; lockers slamming shut; empty candy and cough drop wrappers littering the spaces. All of this “stuff” contributes to the feel of school and therefore to the feel of learning.

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Teacher Appreciation Week: 20% OFF a Selection of Books from our Contributors

Just click on the book title and you’ll be brought to the special discount webpage for ordering. And check out our authors’ blog posts by clicking on the links below their names.

Meena Srinivasan, author of SEL Every Day: Integrating Social and Emotional Learning with Instruction in Secondary Classrooms (SEL Solution Series), $19.95 $15.96

“With Appreciation: For the Love Teachers Bring to Their Work”

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Early Learners Need a Home-School Connection

By Cindy Terebush

I recently participated in an online gathering of early learners.  Their teacher was reading a book.  The children, in little boxes on the computer screen, were making faces at each other, pointing, dancing and performing other feats of imagination.  When the session was over, the teacher asked me, “Why am I doing this?  They aren’t listening.”

In other areas where children may have less access to technology, teachers are preparing materials and packets that families can get in the mail or pick up at bus stops.  Numerous teachers have shared with me that they are convinced that it is a futile effort because most families are overwhelmed and not doing the activities.

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Do Your Homework: Write Alongside your Students

As we enter a new age of education in the world of COVID 19, I am thinking about how to help my students not only continue with their English literature education, but also to process what they, and we as a nation and a world, are going through right now. Isn’t that why we teach literature and history? To make sense of ourselves and our world? To that end, I assigned a time capsule project. (Thanks here to Karli Hart who generously shared her project worksheet with me and many others through an English teachers Facebook page. I made some changes to her original document to suit my particular students, but it is largely hers.) My students will now write three times per week either about the virus, what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in their homes, how they feel, or what they do to escape thinking about the virus.

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Trending in 2020: Have Educators Privileged Argument Writing at the Expense of Personal Narrative?

Although the Common Core State Standards have lost something of their influence over the teaching and curriculum of the English Language Arts, I think it’s undeniable that a lasting legacy of the CCSS is that they increased the centrality of the teaching of argument in the writing curriculum.  You can see the CCSS architects’ justification for this emphasis in a subsection of Appendix A aptly titled “The Special Place of Argument in the Standards” (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf).  You can see it also in this famous (or infamous) statement by David Coleman, the chief of those architects, that was reported in The Atlantic: “A boss would never tell an employee, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that, I need a compelling account of your childhood’” (Goldstein, 2012).  Argument, Coleman argues, should be taught because it’s practical.

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Media Literacy: Argument, Persuasion, and Propaganda in English Education

English educators are generally familiar with the topic of propaganda, as it is a theme of much of the literature that is emphasized in courses for high school and college students. For many teachers, it may seem as if dystopian young adult novels have become the default genre of a generation. Dystopian literature like Huxley’s Brave New World and other works critique mindless consumption, instant gratification, reliance on technology, and the resulting atrophy of language and critical thinking. When reading this novel, one teacher asks her students to reflect on these questions: “Is life easy for us today? Is it too easy? How do people escape from everyday life? Is it necessary to do so? Why or why not?” (Wilkinson, 2010, p. 24).

M.T. Anderson’s young adult novel, Feed is a popular work that considers the ubiquitous nature of advertising as propaganda. The novel uses satire, humor, and exaggeration to depict the world of the future, where the Internet is implanted into your brain as the Feed. As people grow up, their brains cannot function without the Feed. They attend a classroom run by corporations where students learn how to use technology, find bargains and decorate a bedroom. Through education, in this dystopic world, students are trained to be consumers.

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Back to School: Promoting English Learners’ Assets

The proportion of English learners (ELs) in the United States public school system has reached nearly ten percent of all students, and is on a nationwide growth trajectory1.  Along with this growth in numbers, ELs tend to experience an opportunity gap, which generally refers to the impact that factors such as students’ English proficiency, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have on their achievement. For example, 79% of English fluent eighth graders scored at the basic or above reading level in 2017, while only 32% of ELs scored at those levels during that same year.2  In addition, ELs have one of the lowest graduation rates among all students on a national level, approximately 63% as compared to 82% of all students3.Gaps such as these have helped lead far too many educators to see ELs as one-dimensional, defined primarily as being lacking in areas such as English proficiency, achievement in content areas, and/or ability to graduate. Recent research4 on teachers’ perceptions of ELs in kindergarten through second grade suggests that classifying students as ELs has a “direct and negative effect on teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills.”

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