The TED conference has recently launched a new site dedicated to short, academic videos that might be used in a classroom. The site, TED Ed, even includes lesson plans. Here’s their YouTube channel. Good stuff.
I tried this with my English 101 class last week to great success. After reviewing the criteria for writing a good evaluative essay (including, ironically, establishing criteria), they read a copy of a review of something (one day I had them bring in reviews of things they liked–I saw reviews of movies, music, cameras, and a Snuggie–the next day I gave them positive and negative book reviews of Catcher In the Rye, as Salinger had just passed away).
After they studied their piece, I asked them to write a paragraph or two on the back, evaluating the review. How effective was it? Was it crafted suitably for the intended audience? Did it give sufficient background information (or too much) on the item being reviewed? Etc.
Then I had them exchange papers with another student, who then read their review of the original item’s review. I then had them write a paragraph reviewing the review that had just been written by their peer, using the same criteria.
Then I had them trade papers with someone else, who then read everything written so far, and who then wrote a review of the most recent review (which itself, remember, was reviewing a review). By this time, they were adequately cognizant of writing with the requirements for good evaluation in mind. I thought about extending this exercise to further rounds, but decided that this was silly enough. But it worked!
I taught this great play last week for a few reasons: students tend to be exposed to Shakespeare’s tragedies to the exclusion of the comedies, it’s short and accessible, and it’s timely (check the title against the calendar). It was a big hit, but I noticed that kids got a little lost with the names and plot pretty quickly, so we worked out the following charts for each act. The charts show who loves whom. Looking at them now, I think these might make good advertisements for the play–doesn’t looking at these make you want read the actual story in the play (or re-read it)? Actually, looking at these reminds me of Melrose Place.
Based on some reading I’ve done (such as that covered in some posts a couple of weeks ago), and my nine years of teaching experience, I’d like to suggest a way of more effectively measuring teacher competence.
Traditionally, administrators observe bits and pieces of a few classes, and spot check the teacher’s lesson plan book, basing their evaluations largely on criteria related to how the lesson plan book demonstrates cohesion with school district standards and syllabi.
This really doesn’t work. Lesson plan books are better at recording what has already happened than at committing to what will happen–in a good classroom, there is so much flexibility and adaptation as teachers respond to immediate needs that any lesson planned more then a few days in advance is essentially worthless, anyway.
What I suggest is evaluating teachers based on their grade books. Continue reading