curriculum and instruction

Guest Post on Cult of Pedagogy

Happy Wednesday! Sunday, “A Day in the Life of an Alternative High School Teacher” went up on Cult of Pedagogy, which is one of my favorite teaching blogs/sites. Eight months ago I contacted Jennifer Gonzalez, asking to post and share about the school where I teach. She was so kind to let me write for the site. It is my first guest post, and I can truly say that it was a great experience! I have already heard questions and comments from various educators/education fans–even a former student. The internet is such an interesting place sometimes.

I’d love for you to check out the post and Cult of Pedagogy!





Socratic Seminars: Wrapping it up

If you haven’t read Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare or Socratic Seminars: How to Run One, do that before you read this post! They are helpful resources for anyone interested in getting some ideas in how to increase student-driven dialogue in the classroom.

What happens when the talking stops? 

I like to call this “zipping up the backpack.” This could take the form of a formal written reflection, or it could be a class discussion. I definitely collected their graphic organizers to grade for completion in the note-taking area. I give some feedback, almost all positive, because the kids can generally get more critical of themselves with something they are uncomfortable with. Since the seminar was my summative assessment for my class, I wanted to pull from them all that I could in how the seminar affected their content and process knowledge. Like I said before, the decision to make this summative was made on the fly due to a time constraint. I do not have a solid rubric for this reflection yet—if you have any that you’d like to share, I would love to see it!

Questions to spur reflection: 

-What were the most difficult parts about this seminar? Explain.

-What surprised you about this seminar? Explain.

-How did this seminar stretch your thinking?

-Why is appropriate academic language important?

-Would you call this seminar “fun?” Why/why not?

-What are some real-world applications of Socratic Seminars? (i.e., where could you see yourself using the skill of creating questions, claims, counterclaims, and supporting them with evidence?)

-What can your teacher do to make this seminar run more smoothly next time? Explain.

-What can students do to make this seminar run more smoothly next time? Explain.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do is read/hear student reflections. It’s why I assign them so much. They are insightful, honest, and most of the time make me see and feel the success of what we have done together. Metacognition at its finest. I definitely encourage reflection after an activity like this because it reinforces that what we just did as a class is important and is worth our attention.

Want more resources for the Socratic Seminar? Try these:

This is a teacher from Englewood High School, part of my school’s district, who has created a video explaining how he specifically uses Avid (specifically the critical reading process) to prep for the seminar:

-Now give me some reflection! Was this helpful to you as a practitioner? Is there anything you would do differently?


Socratic Seminars: How to Prepare

I posted last year about Socratic Seminars and how I was planning on using them in my classroom. Needless to say, I was apprehensive in doing this because of its somewhat complicated structure and my always-denied but apparent perfectionism and my struggle to avoid it. However, I attended an in-house Avid training by one of our district’s teachers about what the seminar is and how to use it, and I felt pretty comfortable trying it out.

This post is going to be a how-to on how to prepare yourself and your students for a Socratic Seminar! Woo!

Prepare yourself:

1. Decide your end-goal for the S.S. Is it a reflection? Project? In my case, the summative assessment was the actual Socratic Seminar due to time constraints. Students had to demonstrate their learning via participation, the notes they took, and the reflections they wrote. This came out of the graphic organizer that I modified from the Teaching Channel link below.


The Joys and Sorrows of “Winging It”

I had about a week and a half to move to Cincinnati and start teaching grades 7-12 (and a Creative Writing class) when I snagged my job last August. A week and a half to mentally prepare and get my classroom in order (which was easily a week-long endeavor) and plan curriculum for my classes. I had no time to properly unearth materials from English teachers past (apparently I was the third one in three years), no time to understand the students I am responsible for, and no time to thoroughly lesson plan. Not for six preps. Six! For those of you not in the education sector, the average teacher has 2.5-3 preps. However, I have only a fraction of the students in an average school, so I guess it evens out. Or it’s supposed to even out.