Sunday, May 29, 2016

Teaching Methods Based on Learning Theory

Over the past few years, I read a lot about learning theory and began experimenting with new teaching methods. I had already been using many of the techniques, but the compelling results of research studies convinced me to brainstorm novel ways to increase the use of such methods in varied ways. Below is a synthesis of the principles I try to utilize in my teaching methodology.

All students can definitely make real progress.
  • A  Authentic: Is this lesson truly useful and why? I ask myself exactly why I am facilitating this particular lesson. What skills will my students gain? How? In what ways does this lesson link to a larger unit plan? Is the lesson truly a worthwhile learning experience?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Questions for The Great Gatsby

For most of your responses below, cite specific pages in the text. Always support your opinions with quotes from the book.
  1. Discuss Fitzgerald's conception of the American Dream. Does he view it as totally dead, or is he suggesting it is possible to revive it? Define the American Dream according to Fitzgerald during that time period (1920s).  Do you think Fitzgerald likes the popular notion of the American Dream during the 1920s?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Interesting Article on How Deliberate Practice of a Skill Creates Physical Changes in the Brain with Other Great Links Embedded

I have found that the more you teach students about how their brains work, the better learners they become. Discussion of brain physiology is also a way to integrate science across curricula.  The information from the link below might be interesting to share with your students.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Themes in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

For Twain's novel, I discuss the following themes prior to student reading of the novel. Then I tell students that they must find two sections of the text to quote for each of the themes listed below. After each quote they must include an explanation of how the text/section that they are referring to exemplifies the particular theme. Once students have finished reading the novel, we have a scholar-led discussion on the book. (See "Students Learn by Leading" post on this website for ideas about how to facilitate a scholar-led discussion.)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Week

I do appreciate the kindness of Teacher Appreciation Week, but I've been thinking. Why don't we have an appreciation week for people, who I believe, deserve our thanks more? For starters:

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reading Declines Across the World

We have a big problem.

At the twelfth annual Publisher's Forum the following facts were discussed:
  • Random House spokesperson Annette Beetz (Random House is one of the biggest publishers in the world) stated that a company survey showed a 4 percent decline in the regular, book-consuming audience last year. Instead of reading, consumers are choosing gaming, film, TV, and other media. This statistic may not sound significant, but if the trend continues at its present rate (without even considering an increase), in ten years 40 percent of that readership will have disappeared.
  • In most of the emerging economies, such as China, Brazil, India, and Russia, book sales have slowed down or become flat, even reversing in some instances.
  • Consumer books are far below the popularity of in-home video entertainment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sample Advanced Placement English Language and Composition Summer Assignment

Advanced Placement English Language and Composition
Summer Assignments—Reading/Writing

Part One--Reading

Reading Choice: Read any two books from the list below.

My Antonia, Willa Cather (Internet*)
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (Internet)
Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana (Internet)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Handout on How to Take Notes on Fiction

  1. Summarize important chapters/scenes/sections of the text.
  2. Write down all vocabulary words that you do not know.  Look up the definitions and write them down.
  3. Write down any questions you have about what you are reading, i.e., things that you don’t understand. Ask your teacher in class about confusing sections.  Be sure you have written down the page numbers for confusing sections in the text.
  4. Write down good examples of figurative language—similes, metaphors, personification.  Quote; provide the page number.  Elaborate on the effectiveness of the figurative language.
  5. Write down which sections/aspects of the text you liked best.  Provide page numbers. Explain why you liked those sections.
  6. Write down which sections/aspects of the text you liked least.  Provide page numbers. Explain why you did not prefer those sections.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Rubric for a Literary Analysis Essay

  • Analysis means explaining (with textual evidence, i.e., quotes) how an author effectively renders/shows/establishes a particular literary aspect.  For example, theme, mood, characterization, conflict.  Before you begin to write the essay, you have to figure out what larger aspect of the text you will be analyzing. (Sometimes your teacher will assign a specific literary aspect for you to analyze; other times, you will have to choose that literary aspect on your own.)  As you are reading the text, you need to find excellent examples (quotes) that will support that larger literary aspect.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

FSA Item Stems Worksheet

The information in this document was excerpted from the Draft of Grades 9-10 English Language Arts Item Specifications that is posted on the Florida Department of Education website. A few of the Item Stems were created by me. You may find it useful to have students use the sample Item Stems to create questions for what they are reading in class.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Likeable Links

It's always great to refer students to excellent essays on the writing process.  Check out the following link:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Writing Process and Ways to Streamline the Grading of Essays

Every English teacher struggles with ways to make the grading and commenting on student papers easier. Some of the techniques that have worked for me are as follows:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Text-Dependent Questions/Analysis, Webb's Depth of Knowledge, and Deeper Learning

Check out these links for guides to creating text-dependent questions, as well as explanations of Webb's Depth of Knowledge and the Deeper Learning Initiative. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Novel: Molly Bonamici

"Molly is cold and her rather cynical attitude may not make her an instantly likable lead character, but she will win readers over bit by bit with her intelligent and firm approach. The writing is consistently compelling, and sometimes serves as observations on the human condition. Anyone who has ever been an adolescent on the brink of adulthood will find a lot to relate to in Molly’s struggles to get an anchor in her life and her edginess to move ahead. Alternatively, I can relate more to the adult Molly. The change in her perspectives toward life in general is easily relevant and thought-provoking, and I absolutely love the big, hidden twist in the plot. Simply put, Molly Bonamici is a solid read from Mulhern and highly recommended."
--Readers' Favorite

Kirkus Reviews or

The illustration is a modern interpretation of the cover of Daniel Defoe's classic edition of his novel, Moll Flanders, one of several literary works alluded to within the text. One does not have to be "literary," however, to enjoy Molly Bonamici as a contemporary psychological thriller/mystery. Please be aware that the book contains adult content and graphic violence.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ways to Prepare Students for New Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) and Other Rigorous Exams

  • Teaching to the test. Yes, teaching to the test. I know that this may seem like anathema to many educators, but from a pragmatic point of view it works. For example, in the the new Common Core Florida Standards Assessment that we will be preparing students for (whatever its format), we do know that high-level critical thinking skills will be emphasized. We need to give students concrete, specific explanations of what these skills mean (in language and through analogies that they can understand), as well as explicit step-by-step directives on how to understand/use each skill in both reading and writing. Students will never understand the skills of evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and argumentation unless we teach in ways that are specific, concrete, and directed.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Brainstorming/Planning Strategies for Answering the FSA ELA Writing Prompt (The Prewriting Process)

I teach the following strategies to my students:


Brainstorming/Planning Strategies for Answering the FSA ELA Writing Prompt—
Note Taking While You Read and Highlight

Know that this prompt requires you to plan and revise. You will be given a sheet of paper to take notes. All good writing requires planning. Below are some suggestions for the reading, note-taking, and planning process:
  1. As stated in the previous handouts on how to write the essays, you must keep the key words of the prompt and the exact task foremost in your mind while you read the different texts. Highlight the key words in the prompt before you begin reading the passage set.