Tag Archives: classroom

Putting Students in Charge of Building the Classroom Community

As teachers, we usually go into the first weeks of school assuming full responsibility for building the learning space. But what happens if we put some of that responsibility in our students’ hands instead? Our new students come to us full of ideas, stories, expertise, and curiosity. These are the essential materials for a strong classroom community. Here are a few ideas for how to put those raw materials to use:

Have you tried these or other community building activities? Tell us what works!

September 11th

Tragedy can take many forms. Even as we reflect on this, the 15th anniversary of September 11th, some in the NCTE community have had to contend with disruptive and life-threatening weather events as well as violence in their neighborhoods. How can we and should we deal with the topic of tragedy in the classroom? Find ideas in the following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.

Reflection can support both teachers and students in the aftermath of a disaster. Time is needed for children to reflect on their experiences and for teachers to reflect collectively on their students’ art and writing. This is shared in the Language Arts article “‘Wen the Flood Km We Had to Lv’: Children’s Understandings of Disaster“.

Dear Teachers: Letters to Another Hero” from Voices from the Middle presents 54 thank-you letters written by authors (of children’s literature, young adult literature, and professional texts) to classroom teachers, from the shadow of the events of September 11th, 2001. In these letters, authors offer their thanks for teachers’ efforts to face those events with children, and share thoughts about the events and about the power of literature in dark times.

The English Journal article “From Hitler to Hurricanes, Vietnam to Virginia Tech: Using Historical Nonfiction to Teach Rhetorical Context” shares how authentic historical documents can awaken students’ interests and help them understand how purpose, audience, and context shape how such texts are interpreted.

The ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan “Responding to Tragedy: Then and Now” can be used to help students reflect on their responses to any tragedy from which they now have some distance. Students read and discuss the personal responses of four different poets, focusing the relationships between language and meaning. They then compose a poem of their own that includes a section addressing their initial responses to the tragedy and their response to it in the present. Finally, they reflect on what they have learned by being exposed to the perspectives of their peers through reading their poems.

Grading the War Story” from Teaching English in the Two-Year College considers the emotional and psychological complexities of responding to personal narratives when the focus is war.

The author of “Making Meaning Out of the 9/11 Tragedy: Teaching Cormier’s After the First Death” from English Leadership Quarterly saw and took the opportunity to make meaning out of the tragedy with her 10th-graders, while also meeting their needs as struggling readers.

How do you deal with tragedies of any kind in your classroom or community?

“Fostering Culturally Relevant Literacy Instruction”

Names are Powerful”. Jenna Fournel recently unpacked  the article “Fostering Culturally Relevant Literacy Instruction: Lessons from a Native Hawaiian Classroom” by Katherine Wurdeman -Thurston and Julie Kaomea in the July issue of Language Arts.

Here are some connections from ReadWriteThink.org that provide additional examples of projects that can be done to share family information and stories:

Creating Family Timelines: Graphing Family Memories and Significant Events
Students interview family members, and then create graphic family timelines based on important and memorable family events. For an activity that can be done out of school, see http://bit.ly/gcdQzm.

Exploring and Sharing Family Stories
Writing gets personal when students interview family members in order to write a personal narrative about that person.

My Family Traditions: A Class Book and a Potluck Lunch
After analyzing a book about families, students create a class book with artwork and information about their ancestry, traditions, and recipes, followed by a potluck lunch.

Recording Family Stories
Older students can take part in the process of building family histories by recording the stories, or memoirs, of family members.

Do you have any classroom examples to share?