An update in September

Every year, my goal is to formalize my inquiry process – and every year, I end up getting off-track somehow. This year, I’ve done an awful lot of work, good work, but I haven’t gotten my inquiry together in a formal style. So instead of stressing over that, I’m just going to proceed informally. Here is what I’ve done so far this year in my classroom:

  • Writing workshop – we have begun writing every day except for Late Start/shortened periods. We start the period with writing and add a minute to the writing time each day. (As of today, September 19, we are at 19 minutes.) I’ve taught some mini-lessons on process/procedure and have just introduced writing conferences. So far, student feedback has been positive: students have written that they appreciate having a chance to write about topics that they choose instead of only assignments that the teacher assigns.
  • In U.S. History, I’ve tried to teach with a workshop format with limited progress. That is to say, I find it harder to set up workshop structure in USH because there’s so much I feel I need to model. In English, I am more confident at giving kids time to think and struggle with new ideas – it’s harder for me to give up that space in USH. It’s not that the kids are less trustworthy; just that I trust myself less. It makes sense: this is my 17th year teaching English, and only my 3rd year teaching USH. It’s natural that I have less confidence in the latter subject. But I want to keep improving at this: less teacher talk, more time for students to practice with difficult texts and writing.
  • I’ve done good work in my role as a teacher-leader. We have gotten the structured collaboration underway in departments. Jennifer and I haven’t debriefed yet on the work that departments did on September 11, but I think we’re on the right track there. We also have a meeting to address the D/F plan’s 4 “remaining” prongs, scheduled on September 21. We’re moving the ship forward.

My next steps would be to continue to write with my students during writing workshop and to explore how workshop can be a “base” from which to launch explorations and inquiries. I also want to keep working on “workshop-ifying” my U.S. History instruction. (Today, for example, in period 1, I modeled an assignment for 10 minutes, and gave the class the rest of the period to work. The only part missing was a reflection at the end, which I’ll do with the class on Wednesday.)
I also have a phone meeting scheduled with Brenda on Thursday; we are going to talk about how her class in Oakland might collaborate with my kids in El Monte.

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