M.A. English, Indiana University
Important skills I want to teach my students
I find the power of language immense. As a teacher of English, I hope to help my students read rigorously, paying attention to small details and considering how they shape the larger text and reinforce or qualify its themes. Through our work together in the classroom, I strive to demonstrate that the moral questions that we find in literature inform our own views and choices as well. I also consider it my responsibility to help my students write with conviction and spirit, so that they know the expectations and responsibilities of academic prose but also maintain and develop their individual voices so as to serve their personal and imaginative writing as well.
Regardless of the classroom and subject matter, I also think it’s important that we teach the student. I believe students should leave our classrooms as more confident, responsible, empathetic, humane individuals.
Teaching methods to reach these goals
We spend considerable time in class discussing the literature that we read. Often this discussion is student-led: students may generate the questions we consider, provide the textual analysis that serves as the cornerstone of our conversation, or lead their own classmates in discourse. We also engage, at every grade level, in activities designed to improve students’ critical reading skills. Such activities often focus on the “close reading” of key passages in a text.
To strengthen student writing, I use models and focus on key skills as students work on a given critical writing assignment. Revision is always encouraged and often required; at times, we use peer review in class as a revision tool, but most often, students polish their work based on my feedback, given in grading and in one-on-one meetings. Students also have ample opportunities to experiment in collaborative formats and in imaginative or creative tasks. Students write “partner papers” and even take “partner tests,” group creative projects are frequent, and we have assignments that invite mimetic writing or visual artwork that extends the student’s understanding of the written work we study.
Grammar and usage are an element of writing, of course. In grammar instruction (especially in English 9), we use a “flipped instruction” model: students watch teacher-recorded video instruction as homework and do exercises; in class, we review these exercises, work on further practice materials (often in teams), and use team-based review games to marshal our students’ competitive spirits toward the good end of becoming more competent writers and editors.
My Favorite Project
My favorite annual project is the culminating project in English 9. After working to become informed and skilled as analysts of visual texts and then studying advertising in particular, students work in groups to develop an advertising campaign for a fictional product, using products and logos developed by graphic design. Ultimately, each group must “pitch” its campaign to the rest of the class.
What do you like best about teaching at Seven Hills?
At Seven Hills, I get to do work I love among students and fellow faculty members who are thoughtful, funny, interesting, and interested. I have always enjoyed the flexibility of my role and the school’s openness to faculty growth. Seven Hills is a family. The caring that my Upper School students show toward younger students is sincere and heartwarming.