MJ T.'s Innovations in the Classroom
Innovations I have created and included in my classroom instruction as examples of my philosophy in action:
1. a year-long vocabulary unit focusing primarily on Greek derivations which developed the students’ awareness of meanings for each root part to enable them to apply that understanding to making hypotheses about the meanings of unfamiliar words (many of which appear on the SAT) based on a working knowledge of each derivation part - prefix, base, and suffix. This list was also geared to include literature which we were studying such as The Odyssey. Not only was knowledge of derivations emphasized but also how to use the dictionary features to piece together each part of the derivation when it was not included with the definition of the word studied.
2. a research unit required of each student to be completed sometime throughout the year whose focus was background about each period of history from which we read literature in 9th grade this included:
Ancient Greece (mythology and The Odyssey)
Elizabethan England (Romeo and Juliet)
Victorian England (Great Expectations)
cultural heritage of Native Americans (When the Legends Die)
Each student worked in a group and was supervised in the research process using library facilities as well as a classroom library to assemble facts about everyday life, medicine, art, science, government, etc. of the period selected. Each student presented a short written paper developing a thesis with documentation as well as participating in a group presentation of the material as an introduction to the unit of study. I developed this model with average students. It was so successful that it has been written into the honors curriculum also.
3. development of a test bank of questions using the TAAS format for used in each grade I taught. In preparing students for tests and reviewing them afterwards, I increased their understanding of how to be more informed test takers and thus increase their scores on standardized tests. I also included writing as a part of most tests and explained the holistic scoring model by which they were evaluated on classroom tests as well as TAAS. I encouraged students to analyze the questions thoroughly and to create their own rubrics for use on all such tests.
4. an approach to writing instruction which not only encouraged creativity as espoused in the writing process approach but also helped students to channel this creativity into more sophisticated forms of discourse. I introduced formalized heuristics and logical reasoning to help students develop powerful writing styles and content in addition to their natural creativity.
5. a formal research-style paper based solely on a close reading of the text to support a thesis regarding the theme of a literary work as a predecessor to the formal research paper itself using several sources to support a thesis.
6. a step by step approach to teaching grammar which has been overwhelmingly successful in helping students who “never understood it before” (their words) master the concepts and incorporate sophisticated grammatical constructions in their writing. This approach also helps students analyze their own writing to determine if syntax and punctuation are clear and appropriate. Thus they may revise, evaluate, and improve their own writing independently.
7. an approach to responding to literature which builds from a personal response to the piece, through guided discussion, to a literary analysis of the piece. I believe that both aspects are necessary to prepare students adequately for future teachers and future tasks required of them in college and in the business world.
Lest this all sound too formal, these innovations were interspersed with many opportunities for self-expression and just plain enjoying the literature including scripting and acting out scenes from the literature, sharing special writing pieces aloud and on display in the classroom, reading aloud the selections of literature as much as possible, writing based on musical selections and art relevant to the literature, and personal explorations of stages in one’s life based on Dan Kirby’s Inside Out among other activities.
I know I would be a valuable addition to your staff and do sincerely appreciate your time and consideration.