Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Workshop for Teachers, Grades 6-8

Individual Workshop Descriptions

1. Introducing our Literary Community
2. Encouraging Discussion
3. Going Further in Discussion
4. Diversity in Texts
5. Student Diversity
6. Literature, Art, and Other Disciplines
7. Assessment
8. Planning and Professional Development
9. Starting in September...

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Planning and Professional Development


Key Points

Learning Objectives

Background Reading

Homework Assignment

Classroom Connection
Ongoing Activity

Additional Reading

Key Points

  • The more professionally engaged teachers are, the more engaged their students are likely to be; a teacher's professional development often validates his or her work to students.
    • One way teachers help students learn is by continuing to learn themselves.
    • Good professional development is experiential and leads teachers to rethink teaching and learning while providing new ways to approach classroom instruction and organization.
  • Student populations are different than they were 10 or 20 years ago; understanding these differences and meeting the educational needs of these students requires different instructional strategies than many of those used in the past. As our society and the world change, educators have to rethink what they do and how they do it if they are to remain effective.
  • Many teachers find attending the Summer Institutes run by local sites of the National Writing Project, or joining professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association, help them stay abreast of current developments in education and return to the classroom informed and refreshed.
    • Teachers have to be willing to take risks and try out new ideas and strategies for professional development experiences to be useful.
    • Teachers need to be thoughtful and reflective about professional development experiences, considering what they are learning in the context of their own classroom communities and their own teaching styles.
    • Professional development experiences may involve the opportunity to meet and talk with the authors of books students are reading; such encounters can provide rich starting points for later literary discussions in the classroom.
  • Teachers who see themselves as learners validate the processes of learning for their students.
  • In envisionment-building classrooms, every student's viewpoint is essential. When teachers learn new techniques or new approaches to a text, they often find new ways to engage those different viewpoints. Students for whom our instruction is ineffective challenge us to find new approaches.
  • Teachers need their own community of professionals within which they can raise questions, share problems, and examine their classroom successes and failures.
    • Research suggests that student learning is enhanced in places where teachers and other education professionals get together regularly to share ideas and support one another's professional development.
    • In addition to workshops and professional reading, many teachers turn to mentors throughout their professional life to help their continuing evolution.
    • Professional conferences provide opportunities to develop a network of teacher peers with whom to share ideas.
    • One way teachers can support one another professionally is by observing and offering feedback on each other's classes.
  • The most effective professional development activities are those that originate with problems teachers have and offer opportunities for teachers to explore and test various solutions. Effective teachers constantly pose questions and seek answers centered on their teaching and their students' learning.
  • Thoughtful long-term planning is essential to effective teaching because it enables linking classroom experiences into a coherent learning sequence.
    • Many teachers begin their long-term planning with a list of things they want students to know and be able to do by the end of the year.
    • Some teachers begin their planning by reviewing student evaluations from earlier years.
    • Goals or standards established by the state or by the school district provide a starting point for other teachers when they plan.
    • Knowing the student population and targeting planning to meet its needs leads to effective instruction.
    • When doing interdisciplinary planning, teachers identify the ideas and issues that are central to each discipline and focus on those that the disciplines have in common. Research does not show that students necessarily learn better as the result of an interdisciplinary approach, but such approaches offer students different ways to interact with the curriculum.
  • A central aspect of planning in an envisionment-building classroom is determining what literature to offer students.
    • Some teachers try to find one or two new books to offer students each year. Some teachers choose readings with a thematic focus; others choose readings by a single author.
    • Choosing a focus for the literature helps students make connections between and among the different works throughout the year.
  • In addition to identifying the topics that will be discussed, good planning involves consideration of the kinds of experiences students will have with the literature.
  • Clear long-term goals provide teachers with the flexibility to adjust short-term activities to meet emerging student needs without losing sight of the overall plan.

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