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Teaching 2012

The habits and intellectual competency that will be a focus of my classroom are related to the writing process, but directly come from the ability to comprehend and analyze a writing selection. There are definite techniques and abilities that are assessed on the AP tests, and the best way that this can be achieved is to motivate a confidence and autonomy in the way the students put their thinking into the written word. Writing about literature, while certainly tied to a set of guidelines, need not be mechanical and scholastic. All too often, I think that AP students fall into the trap of trying to write in a way that is inauthentic. Motivated by the perceived requisites of academic writing, students often submit formulaic essays, which show little perception, understanding, or authenticity.

The mind-set that the course presented was the concept that writing should be a “conversation” with the text, whether it be prose, poetry, or non-fiction. Regurgitation of supporting quotes, with little insight into meaning or perception, are all regularly a characteristic of the writing I have encountered in my short time as an AP teacher. Summarization habitually is offered as a substitute for insight. Culpability for this rests in the lack of certainty young adults have toward their writing.

The other concept, which should facilitate better written analysis, is the idea of “The Bounce”. In order realign students away from the superficiality of paraphrasing and supporting with a quote, their writing should be seen as a way of showing the machinations of their mind in a way that is profoundly public. There are techniques, which I learned in the course, and that I have utilized before, that can enable students to gain their own voice. By evaluating proficient and superlative writing of others, in conjunction with practice in the minutiae what makes for engaged writing, I want to be able to both stimulate students to write more capably, to analyze competently, and provide them with the skills to make them assured of their own talent and capability

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As a part of Maryland Reading Month activities, a group of ninth-graders from Joppatowne High School spent time reading and discussing books with the enthusiastic members of Ms. Barb Matos’ first grade class at Riverside Elementary School.  For the Riverside students, it was a chance to see modeling of the skills they have been learning, while interacting closely with teenagers.  For the high school kids, it was an occasion where they could be role models to younger learners while utilizing some of the skills they used in Mr. Bowman and Ms.Harris’  Strategic Reading class

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The Strategic Reading program is used in9th and 10th grade to provide selected students with a semester class that focuses on the strategies used by highly proficient readers. Using high-interest, level appropriate texts, students identify and apply reading strategies in a way that allows them to boost their reading and writing abilities.  This focus ultimately leads to an increased proficiency in English, as the students transition into the ninth grade curriculum.

Tracy Weidner, the reading specialist at Riverside Elementary felt that this would be a perfect fit for the first-graders.  As she coordinated the effort, she reflected that it would be a positive thing for Ms. Matos’ students to see that the reading strategies they were learning (predicting, questioning, inferring) would be valuable tools  in their future endeavors.  Alex Shuron, one of Joppatowne’s students, noticed the link right away.  “They used the same words when they discussed the books,” she reflected.   “It was nice for us to teach the stuff we’ve been learning.”  Chelsey Harris, one of the ninth grade co-teachers, considered that “it was nice to see our students in a leadership role, reinforcing some of the skills we’ve worked on.”

The first graders at Riverside enjoyed the experience as well.  Tyler Cox related, “I liked it because my partner, Damon, was a good reader and we laughed together.”  Keshawn Morgan, said,“The first graders were just so into it.  They kept fighting to answer questions and just wanted to do more.” As the visit started to wind down, Riverside’s first grade students started to pull out some of their favorite books and show the big kids how well they could read.

The two schools are planning to collaborate again in the spring.  Feeling that the experience was positive, Ms. Weidner observed, “Celebrating literacy at Riverside Elementary was a wonderful, valuable experience.  The younger and older students came together to learn first hand, the power of reading together.”

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