Due to the success of the "Classroom Office" which I ran with a colleague last year (and has been fully detailed in previous blogs), I decided to keep this framework for my one class of freshmen. However, I knew that I would have some students again a second time (whether in 10th or 12th grade) and wanted to make sure they were learning the English content within a new and fun experience.
I have never taught seniors before and was both nervous and excited for the challenge. I knew I had the make the class REAL in order to keep their attention. I wanted to teach this group because I feel too often it is easy to give up on the oldest students (since they no longer want to be in high school and are ready for the next chapter of their life). I wanted to make sure I was able to make one last impact and leave them with some solid life skills before the left to the real world. The framework I established was a focus on critical lenses through an introductory study of psychology. Here is how I set it up:
Students in all grade levels know that my classes are on a rotation of manners in which class begins. In any first class within a three class cycle, students begin class with a random quick write that we then discuss in a circle format. (Please refer to other blog entries regarding establishing classroom environment and rapport for specifics on how to make this work with high school students). Sharing these random quick writes is a great community building tool that allows students to get to know one another, build empathy, and hear how other students write. Also, because the topics themselves are random, students are able to write in a myriad ways. In any second class within a three class cycle, students will analyze a song (with lyrics provided on the Promethean board) and in every third class students will do the same with a poem. These full class analyses allow students to develop their critical thinking and synthesis skills over time by hearing other students' thought processes as well as hearing the lens from which students attack multiple forms of art across a wide period of time. This tool can further be used by teachers to gauge individual students "senses" (or the vibe they bring to class) - and can in turn use this information to better meet students psychologically where they are in a specified time.
Students receive formative assessment grades for participating in circle (which literally every single student does) and are graded summatively on six items per quarter: a formal song analysis, a formal poem analysis, a timed in-class essay on the class novel they read/discussed that month, and two group "psych projects" (in 12th grade). All of these projects are assigned with huge open-ended due dates. Students submit 3/6 of these assignments at the midpoint of a quarter and the other 3 at the end.
The seniors sit around the circle (really a square) of my room in seats of their choice. Students spend the second half of each class (after work on the quick write/song/poem) reading the quarter class text and engaging in psychology activities. Students weave these topics together and look at different characters and situations of their novel through the lens of diverse principles of psychology (thus reinforcing the English content knowledge while teaching life skills and giving students meaningful, yet low pressure oral presentation opportunities).
Students engage in a different focus (building their psych knowledge) each quarter. These are listed the way I have separated them below:
QUARTER 1: GENERAL PSYCHOLOGY
Topics include: Basic Theory on Groups, Visual Perception, Dreams, Gestalts, Cognitive Psych, Theories of Intelligence, Left/Right Brain, Love, Emotion, Attribution Theory, Personality, Leadership, and basic experiments such as Rosenhan's, David Kolb's, and The Good Samaritan. They engage with these concepts while reading "The Kite Runner" by: Khaled Hosseini
QUARTER 2: DISCREPANCIES, DISORDERS, and THERAPY
Topics include: Mood disorders, Somatoform Disorder, False Consensus, Stress, Self-Discrepancy, Art Therapy, Hypnosis, Cognitive Dissonance, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Drive Reduction, Heuristics, Magic, Personality Disorders,. Dissociative Disorder, Anxiety, and Strangeness.
They engage with these concepts while reading "The Poisonwood Bible" by: Barbara Kingsolver
QUARTER 3: EARLY FIELD RESEARCH: 1849-1933
Topics include: Pavlov, Freud, Adler, Watson, Rorschach, Piaget, Lewin, Fromm, Horney, Vygotsky, Sullivan, and Murray. They engage with these concepts while reading "Hard Times" by: Charles Dickens
QUARTER 4: MODERN FIELD RESEARCH: 1934-PRESENT
Topics include: Skinner, Kohlberg, Milgram, Zimbardo, Asch, Harlow, Banduru, Rogers, Maslow, Ellis, Bowlby, and Jung. They engage with these concepts while reading "Things Fall Apart" by: Chinua Achebe
All activities involve students working together with the text and the topic in order to establish understanding of the real world through literary situations. These lessons culminate in group presentations that must last 15min per group and encompass the quarter psychology theme, a class text (novel/song/poem), and an interactive activity that engages the other students and pushes our thinking forward.
Having a framework in class (and I am sure you can see how the World Lit texts and mixture of modern songs and classic poetry marry the real life psychology themes) allows teachers to create excitement and tradition around the content within their class. Focusing on group collaboration rather than competition allows students to focus on the highest levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (and while being assessed in English content skills) can focus on the relevant elements of the discipline (critical reading, critical writing, and oral presenting - rather than focusing on individual skills taken out of authentic context).
As stated previously, my freshmen framework of "The Classroom Office" has been detailed in previous post. My next post will discuss the framework of my senior class and the post to follow will discuss using games in class to develop a positive environment and an early and strong rapport.
If you are attending NCTE17 and are interested in learning more. Please come see me and the incredible student leaders: #thebowtieboys during our D.18, F.14, and i20 sessions! Rock on! :-)
Jack Michael @jackmichael776 http://bowtieboyjack.blogspot.com/
Christian Sporre @CSporre http://christiansporrebtb.blogspot.com/