Week in Reflection: February 25-29, 2008

The Lamppost Blogger recently mentioned a weekly goal to be reflective about the week’s teaching.  I love the idea and decided to steal it, and I meant to start yesterday, too, but the day got away from me.

I am really happy with the unit I have written on Death of a Salesman.  My main worry at this point is that it coincides with a strange time at my school.  Seniors are given the option to finish high school in Israel through a partnership with a high school there, and Friday was the last day for these seniors.  Frankly, it feels as though the seniors who have decided to finish school here have checked out already.  With three months still to go before they graduate, it is a little early to stop learning.  My worry is that students won’t get all they can out of the unit because they are not prepared to put much into it.  I suppose that is the bane of a twelfth grade teacher’s existence, but it’s frustrating.

By far my most successful lesson this week involved me being utterly silent as my 9th grade students conducted a Socratic seminar around the question Who is most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet?  The discussion was a treat to listen to.  Students were turning to the text.  They knew it backward and forward.  They were citing evidence.  They were debating.  They also told me they had fun.  I am sure they learned much more through preparing for this discussion than they would have studying for a test, and I think the assessment has more real-world applications, anyway.  They wouldn’t let me record it, probably knowing I would share it on my blog!  You can read a description of the assignment here: Teaching Romeo and Juliet: Part Four and a reflection from last year here: Who Killed Romeo and Juliet?

I don’t feel good about leaving school early on Friday.  I had to — I actually have a mild concussion.  I got bonked on the head Thursday night when a glass full of pens and change fell off my bookshelf and hit my head, but I didn’t think it was too bad until the next day when I felt sort of dizzy and queasy.  Finally, I felt too bad to carry on, so I asked a colleague to teach my writing class about documentation and Works Cited pages.  I am sure she did a great job, but I hate feeling as though I let my students down, even when it couldn’t be helped.

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3 thoughts on “Week in Reflection: February 25-29, 2008

  1. Dana,

    What is the best way to develop a Socratic seminar? I don't really understand how to make one up. It sounds like it's a good activity. Any links to good websites for this?

  2. Well, a Web site I used to develop the Socratic seminar is the ELA materials from Greece Central School District (scroll down to the bottom of this post: http://www.huffenglish.com/?p=282). The two handouts I linked at the end of the post should be helpful, too.

    Essentially, tell your students to focus on a big question you want them to discuss. For example, "What's wrong with Holden?" is a good one for The Catcher in the Rye. If you have a specific work of literature in mind, I can brainstorm a question with you. Let me know if you need some more help after checking that out.

  3. Dana,

    Thanks for the mention and I'm glad that you like the idea of reflecting on a week's lessons. I'm looking forward to following your reflections.

    I really like the use of a Socratic circle with a novel study. I've used it only once before — with Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead — but am looking forward to applying it again. Thanks for the suggestion of applying the Socratic circle to Shakespeare. I will definitely try that.

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