Literature teaching reflection

I enjoyed teaching to everyone last night—you’re a great class! Thank you to everyone who participated.

Overall I was pretty pleased with how my presentation went. I thought I had a good balance of discussing the objectives and methodology of the lesson and doing the actual activities. If I had more time I would have liked to hear more of the responses people had written so that I could gauge how well my 10th graders would do with the assignments. The snatches of conversation I did overhear as I moved around the room sounded pretty interesting!

I decided to not write while you all were writing. I felt like sitting down to write would leave me too unavailable for questions and unable to observe everyone’s progress. With all of you this wasn’t an issue, but I know it would be with my sophomores. I’m curious to hear from others—have any of you tried writing with your high school students? I’m willing to give it a try, but I’m not sure my students would let me put down more than a couple sentence before they interrupted me!

After I finished I found myself wondering if I had explained my follow-up assignment on interviewing a parent very well. I knew I only had 5 minutes left and I think I might have rushed my explanation. The objective behind the assignment was to have students think more about Mrs. Sommers’ identity struggles and send them back to the text with hopefully a more nuanced sense of sympathy for her as a character.

If you had any thoughts or suggestions I’m happy to hear them!

10 thoughts on “Literature teaching reflection

  1. nikki

    I really enjoyed your presentation, and I think it’s clear that you know your students very well. I, too, would not be able to write with my students, so I understand your point about walking around and being accessible. Don’t feel guilty about it–we all have to work with the students we have! Speaking of walking around, I noticed you monitoring conversations and glancing around to see that people were participating. Great classroom management!
    I also liked your post-reading assignment (the parent interview) because although it was based on ideas from the story, it wasn’t a typical literary analysis assignment (i.e. “Write about how Mrs. Sommers changes throughout the story”). I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel like I already give more than enough direct writing assignments like that, so your idea was fresh and fun. I think kids will absolutely make the connection that Mrs. Sommers’s change has to do with her identity as a parent (or her temporary spurning of that role) as a result of conducting and writing about their own interviews. Great way to emphasize the learning point you want students to take away!
    In short, I think you did a really good job of presenting the story, guiding us through it with fun activities (I loved the Ivanhoe style writing!) and focusing on one particular aspect of the story in a high-interest way. I would love to see what students actually find out and write about in their interviews. Are you going to do this assignment with your real 10th graders?

  2. abbie

    I agree with Nikki — I thought the interview assignment was a really great one. I also agree that you balanced your time well and were still able to explain the entirety of your lesson. I was surprised at how much your in-class writing assignment made me think about the characters in the story (not just Mrs. S., but the character whose POV I was writing from, too). Successful! Thanks for a great lesson and some good ideas!

  3. vbartush

    Great job last night! I enjoyed your selection and thought that you did a good job of making it relevant to your students through the pre-writing activity of thinking of a time that we didn’t feel like ourselves, the approach of looking at Mrs. Sommers through the eyes of various characters, and through the interview assignment. I think that relevance is sometimes a challenge for texts that are from another time period, so good job!

    Another writing activity that might be productive and would build off the character impression activity we did would be to have students create another scene in the story where Mrs. Sommers buys something else or goes some place else. They would have to refer back to the text to make it flow with the rest of the story and imitate Chopin’s style as closely as possible. I guess that would be sort of like an Ivanhoe game, but it could be done individually as well.

    I agree with Nikki that walking around during the writing and discussion was an effective classroom management technique. Given the age of your students, I think being available to answer questions during those times is more important than sitting down and writing along with them.

  4. lfiesthu

    I was so impressed by how well you seem to know your students and by how thorough your lesson was. My favorite activity of the lesson was the role-playing writing assignment. It really is an engaging way to get students to think about the story in new and creative ways. I’ll definitely be borrowing that activity in any future class that I might teach! I also liked how you built time for reading the story in class into your lesson. Like I said, you know your students, and you know that most of the time, they won’t read the story at home. Building reading and rereading into your lesson plan is the perfect way to know for sure that they’ve read the story at least once. You did a great job!

  5. Tim

    Autumn –
    When we were working on our first assignment – having us write about a time when we didn’t feel right and what we did to get out of our funk – I was a little confused. My thought was that high school students haven’t had the life experiences that compare to what Ms. Sommers had apparently gone through in her life. But you closed the circle, so to speak, with your follow up assignment where students interviewed their parents. A great idea! Besides helping students connect with the text, these assignments probably help students to realize that our journey through life will have moments such as these and they are not necessarily to be feared. I know you aren’t teaching intro to psychology here, but these assignment carry a much broader lesson than maybe you intended!

    I also liked the assignment where we took on the identity of other characters in the story. I was the waiter. Before I began to write I tried to identify exactly what the waiter could tell about Ms. Sommers, knowing nothing about her “back story.” Really, all I had to go on were the visual clues: her old and mostly worn out clothes juxtaposed against here obviously new and stylish shoes, stockings, gloves, etc. The exercise caused me to paint a better picture in my head of Ms. Sommers. It also gave me a chance to get inside the waiter’s head for a brief moment. He could have treated her with contempt or indifference, but instead, he treated her “like royalty.” I think this little scene gives a brief glimpse of a different, more gentle time. I liked it!

  6. Alicia

    I agree with all the compliments everyone else shared about your lesson. As a mother of two small children (who used to have a pretty fashionable life) I felt so deeply for the story. I loved your follow-up assignment and thought of a what-if. What if you assigned it BEFORE the story? You know – Elbow and his “Take Possession of the Territory” idea. Just a thought!

    I also loved the use of low-tech Ivanhoe. We had fun with it in my group and I think it really makes you examine the story from different angles and think about who she is and who she appears to be.

    Fantastic job. Wonderful story.

  7. Susanna

    As everyone has said already, you did a fantastic job. I can tell that your confidence and warmth as a teacher only serve to encourage your students to perform their best. I really liked your teaching demeanor.

    I also wanted to say that like Nikki, I, too, have many moments in teaching when I do not model for students by writing or reading with them– and when you are present with them, walking around the room, fielding questions and using proximity to keep them on task, I think you are doing just as much service. Frankly, I remember a teacher telling me in my first year that it is nearly impossible to manage every responsibility we have and always keep up with the modeling. She reminded me to use the moments when students are engaged in individual activities to do what I needed to get done. Though I know that it may not be “best practice,” I have to admit that, besides modeling or monitoring them, I also am guilty of just trying to keep afloat. That said, your decision to monitor was a great example of active classroom management and just plain good teaching, at least in my opinion!

    Also, I just have to put a plug in for using a Chopin story. Great choice! Others that work really well with high school students are “Desiree’s Baby,” “The Story of an Hour,” and “The Kiss.” Oh, do I love me some Chopin. Great presentation, Autumn!

  8. afaye

    I really don’t know what to add, Autumn, like everyone has said your presentation was stellar! The interview assignment is a great idea and not one I would have necessarily tied with this story, but it really is a great fit for expanded perspectives. I like your take on the Ivanhoe game as it seems a little more structured for your 10th graders. You really are an awesome model for teachers knowing the best way to interact with their students and I agree that some grade levels need more authority and structure than others. I was really impressed with your story, too. When I read it (which I never had and man, I really like this story) I had a moment of “what will 10th graders do with this?” as I guess you do with any Chopin you pick for 10th graders. However, you did a great job accessing your students prior knowledge/experiences of identity before tackling your Ivanhoe writing and the difficulties of others’ perceptions and identities. I really appreciate you modeling, for me, a great sequencing of assignments. I really understood how your unit progressed and how you were building knowledge with each activity. Really killer job, thanks so much! I wish I had more opportunities to be your student 🙂

  9. Susan

    I just commented on twitter answering a question posed in your blog post. I don’t have a classroom yet myself, but I do have a professor that participates by also doing our outside of class writing assignments, and then she shares that writing in class with us when we share. However, she is also a poet, so it’s also all in good practice for her instead of just modeling for us.

    You did a great job, and you definitely have a teacher presence. I think your pre-writing exercise was interesting, and fit the perspective of Mrs Sommers being out of place with the rich folk (I am not sure that I agree that we get that she feels out of place though as her confidence builds throughout the story). What about asking students to write what they would do if they won a lottery for $10,000? Or asking students to write about a time they ever felt greedy and was their greed justified?

    I think the Ivanhoe-like activity was successful, and it definitely reached your objective of having the student reread. Not only did I have to reread for the character assigned, but somehow I overlooked that at one point Mrs. Sommers purchased boots, so that made me go back to find that section of the story as well.

    Your presentation definitely will meet the SOL standard requirements; it is fitting to both characterization and a writing connection, while also fulfilling your objective of rereading.

  10. febencosme

    On writing with your students: Students do get into it, especially if it’s understood upfront that it is a “quiet” five-minute activity. I think the key to quick-writing success is to do it consistently, e.g. at the beginning of every class. Always having a prompt on the board before the students arrive is helpful, too. I did quick writes at the beginning and ending of my government classes. The beginning quick write got students to thinking about the lesson for that day; he ending quick write required students to reflect on the discussion.

    Good luck!

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