Any English Teachers or High School Students Here?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by strider42, Nov 11, 2008.

  1. strider42 macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2002
    I want to be a teacher and have scored a long term position as a substitute English teacher. Its a great opportunity, but I could certainly use some help from those out there who are English teachers or are students taking English in high school right now.

    My biggest problem is figuring out what to do on a day to day basis. Getting discussions going is hard. What kinds of things do you or your teachers do. What do you do every day (obviously we can't be writing an essay every day). How much reading do you do as a class (out loud, etc). If you have any suggestions on things that work well, or things that really don't, I'd really appreciate it.
  2. rs7 macrumors regular

    Oct 24, 2008
    I'm a freshman in a New York high school. We have a fairly good amount of discussion. The only writing in class is usually a little bit of note taking, or doing worksheets related to books we're reading. We read part of a book at home and then the following day come in and discuss what happened (read it aloud if it's a play). We usually write essays at home. (Grammer/Writing/etc is done as a seperate class every other day)
  3. apsterling macrumors 6502a


    Nov 24, 2007
    Don't do what my english teacher does.

    She basically assigns silent work for the entire period and gets mad when we discuss it. I've typically liked english teachers who get involved with discussion of the matter involved, like, bringing up a discussion about what's expected next or the like.
  4. ErikCLDR macrumors 68000

    Jan 14, 2007
    I am in AP Language and Composition.

    My teacher reads to us and stops every so often to discuss what we have read. Ask questions to provoke thought, etc. Other times we read and then discuss. As a teacher its beneficial for you to ask questions that will lead students down the right path of thinking or cause controversy which leads to a discussion.

    Also you could always assign homework questions. Have them answer them. Ask a student to share what they said and ask others if they agree or disagree.
  5. OutThere macrumors 603


    Dec 19, 2002
    I'm in college...but my favorite english teachers in high school were ones that managed to get the class involved in discussion. Typically that involved relating what we were reading in class with day to day life somehow...for example the teacher might ask students if they agreed with the main character's actions and what they might do differently in that situation. Once you get going with that kind of stuff you can get a good conversation going.

    In high school we kind of live in an adolescent bubble world and the best classes always seemed the best when the teachers were aware of the bubble and worked with it. Strictly academic, literary discussions never seemed to work. The best strategy for those days when everyone had a 'case of the mondays' and nothing could get going always seemed to be some sort of reading out loud. I had a teacher or two who also kept copies of the movie versions of what we read for days like that...we'd watch a scene and discuss or something like that.

    Things I'd avoid:
    -Silent writing assignments in class.
    -Overly academic discussions.
    -Long winded lectures.
    -Stupidly difficult pop-quizzes.

    also: I went to a prep school with big wooden round-tables...the best discussions are clearly always had when it's easy to face each other, if you're serious about getting something going arranging everyone in a circle/half-circle can do well.
  6. fireshot91 macrumors 601


    Jul 31, 2008
    Northern VA
    Virginia- Freshman taking Pre-AP.

    we start English every class with 15 minutes of silent reading... then we talk about daily life for ~2-3 minutes, then she talks about what we're going to do, we do that for like 45-50 minutes, then talk about random crap for the next 5 minutes, then we get ready to leave for the next 5 minutes, and while we're doing that we just talk amongst ourselves..
  7. jeremy.king macrumors 603


    Jul 23, 2002
    Fuquay Varina, NC
  8. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    Its very important that you start off on the right foot with your students. As a senior in High school ive seen many subs end up getting more or less just harassed because students see the teachers gone, and expect a break.

    I'd start of by easing into the lessons, meaning dont be too strict the first few days. Joke around, have fun. Once they like you then you can start to teach without many problems.

    And don't be too official, if theyre older, be real with them. If you find something in the book or w/e to be stupid or funny, mention it. Nothing gets students to identify with you like hearing from the teacher something like "I think that its crap" (when talking about an unpopular idea in a book or something).

    Connect first, then teach.
  9. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    good for you and that helps this thread how?:rolleyes:

    your lesson plan may be dictated in terms by school district an their curriculum the want covered.

    also, what level of english are you teaching? you will need to build your lesson plan around the level you are teaching as well as the topic that is at hand.

    for instance, teaching shakespeare i imagine would be different than teaching sentence structures in terms of the activities you do in the day and what not

    i would talk to teachers already at the school to get an idea personally

    i personally dont believe in conforming a class to be easy for the students. a teacher is there to teach a curriculum. to say topics are "crap" is subjective and sends the message that learning about it is not really important

    be a good teacher who is prepared, is nice, and yet demanding and students will respect you for it

    in hs and college, nothing irritated me more than professors who had easy classes or didnt demand homework. the objective is to learn, not to be buddy buddy with kids

    anyways thats my view
  10. strider42 thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2002
    yeah, I know all about lesson plans. But most of the ones online are pretty crappy or incomplete, and they don't get at what I was asking about re: getting a discussion going, what kinds of things other people have experienced. I want to hear real world experiences.

    Thanks to those who have responded so far. Its all helpful. Would definitely appreciate hearing more about the kidn of day to day things you did in your English class.

    Someone asked what level I'm teaching. its juniors and seniors.
  11. CalBoy macrumors 604


    May 21, 2007
    I have some teaching and tutoring experience under my belt, and although I've never taught high school students specifically, I have taught 5th and 6th graders and taught seminars for college students, so I feel my advice can help you.

    The key to creating a discussion is to pose the right questions. A good way to get material for such questions is a hypothetical scenario. For example, if you are discussing Antigone, it might be a good idea to present your class with the Heinz Dilemma and present the following question to the class; "What's the right thing to do, and why?"

    Usually there is a brave kid who will give it a shot, and you have to encourage that person so that others will follow. Once a few kids chime in, a snowball effect will take place and soon the discussion will be quite healthy. Always remember, though, that no matter what you do, you have to have refocus points and questions so your class doesn't veer off topic (ie, discussing the drug suddenly becomes a tirade about pharmaceutical companies which then becomes a tirade against American healthcare-while fine to discuss in general, they are not the focus of your class).

    Above all, don't be afraid of noise. I had a really good mentor teacher who taught me that no matter what, a yelling and screaming class is dozens of times better than a quite class. When they're quite, it means they're not engaged and interested; when they're loud it means they are excited and can be harnessed (if you will) to get something done.
  12. psycoswimmer macrumors 65816


    Sep 27, 2006
    In my literature class, we've thus far read 1984, Baron in the Trees, Allegory of the Cave, What is Enlightenment?, Candide, and (we are starting to read) Merchant of Venice. All reading is done on our own time as homework. In class, we talk about what we read the night before and discuss themes, characters, and tie the book to the outside world. We also have a quiz each day on the reading due that day. The quizzes are not incredibly hard, but the point is that you should be able to answer the questions if you carefully read the assigned reading. The class is very laid back (the discussion, that is, not the work), and we often arrange our desks in a circle for discussion. Outside of reading, we're assigned an essay for each novel/writing we read (usually 4 pages typed), are required to mark our books as we read them, and occasionally answer questions in our notebook. Also, we have a 30 page intellectual journal due every marking period.

    Edit: I'm a sophomore in high school in New York State.
  13. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    I didnt say anything about topics. I'm saying relate to students in ways they get. If a character in a story has a stupid idea, call it out as theyd see it "crap".

    I'm not saying shakespeare is crap or essay writing, I'm saying in context its perfectly fine to have some fun at the expense of stupid ideas.
  14. jeremy.king macrumors 603


    Jul 23, 2002
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    What topics? Literature, Poetry, Grammar, Vocabulary, Writing? You probably need to be more specific for better ideas.

    But the reality is what works for others may not work for you. You will find every class has a different chemistry and you'll learn over time what pushes the right buttons.

    For example, reading aloud may work well for say Shakespeare, but not so much for Vonnegut
  15. Nadav macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2007
    I am currently a sophomore in high school, in New York. English is my favorite subject this year, although it was my least favorite last year, and the reason was the teachers. My teacher from last year never tried to relate to us, she would only relate to books that we had already over analyzed early in the year. This year my English teacher has a bit of an advantage since we have a class of only 13 kids, compared to the 25 kids I had last year. The reason why I like English so much more this year is because of our discussions. We read for homework every day, and in class we discuss what we read, but instead of just reviewing everything that happened in the previous chapter, we take a look at one character and discuss the moral dilemmas they are facing. Another thing that affects class participation is the way the class seating is. Last year we had assigned seating which would force us to sit next to people we didn't like, and would make English feel like hell. This year, we can sit with whomever we want to, and the desks are shaped in a horseshoe, allowing everyone to see each other, and the teacher. Connect with the students early on, because once most kids have a certain impression of you, it won't change. Good luck. :)
  16. EricNau Moderator emeritus


    Apr 27, 2005
    San Francisco, CA
    That's how it should be, in my opinion. Having students read in class (with the exception of short works of prose) is just a waste of valuable discussion/instruction time.

    Depending on how often you wish to discuss the outside reading, you could set aside a certain day (or days) each week devoted entirely to discussion of the book.
  17. lozanoj83 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 5, 2006
    Southern California
    Im a freshman in college and well like others have said some of my favorite english high school teachers had to be those who got the class to interact. If you're able to get the kids to talk out loud, have group discussions then give out oral reports to the class on what they just talked about its great. English was awesome in high school when my teacher would be able to start discussion on a book, and people would jump in to give there opinion, then someone else would jump in either to agree or disagree and it would just build on that.

    • Silent work
    • Busy work
    • Long lectures
    • Boring classwork that serves no purpose
  18. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    I'm not an English teacher, but I do sleep next to one every night...

    She teaches senior lit. That's Brit lit in the CA system. I'll try to help you out with stuff that she has had to deal with over the years.

    First, discipline. Being a sub is a rough, thankless job. One thing that helps is having an administration willing to back up the teachers and not give in to parental whining. She's taught in both situations, and the former is far preferable to the latter from the teacher's perspective.

    You'll have to assert yourself. Note that it is much easier to be a complete hardass from day one, and let the kids earn you easing up on their behavior than to try to be the "nice guy" and have to ramp up the discipline after things start to get out of hand. Building a reputation helps, but you don't have that luxury as a sub. You will have to choose a "sacrificial lamb" -- typically the first student who steps out of line -- and bring the wrath of God down upon them in a very public fashion. Just make sure it's not over something stupid, make it over something worth the trip to the ass-prin's office.

    Next, grading. English is a notoriously difficult subject in this regard, as it is easy to get way over your head in terms of correcting papers. The good ones often burn out trying to grade everything. When you're spending 15 minutes per paper and you've got 60 papers, that's 15 hours you're going to spend just on grading, not counting data entry. If you have more students, that only compounds the problem. Some stuff just has to get graded "holistically", meaning did they do some minimum amount of work. Sweating grammar and/or spelling on every assignment will kill you.

    If the school offers it (and you are able to come back for another year) use your best former students or people recommended by former students that you trust as aides. They can do data entry, or grade standardized homework for you, freeing you up to do other things.

    Now, as for classroom activities, my wife likes to break things up into chunks of time. Her school is on block scheduling, so she has (3) 90 minute periods a day, no prep. If your school does the 6 or 7 periods a day thing, you may need to adjust or alternate activities every other day or something. First, she has what's known as 'SSR', or silent sustained reading. They do something like 20 minutes a day, most days. She makes them keep a journal.

    You have to be passionate about your subject, or your kids will get that you're faking interest in the subject matter as well. Luckily, my wife is a total Shakespeare junkie. She not only gets into the reading material, but also into the time period. She is constantly bringing in outside reference material that helps the kids understand what else was going on when the piece was written. She's shown things like Steven Colbert's performance at the White House correspondent's dinner when discussing satire. She's shown the episode of South Park where Terrance does Canadian Shakespeare and they do a line-for-line reading of the death scene in Hamlet -- with the addition of "buddy" or "guy" here and there. She shows the Simpson's episode where James Earl Jones reads "The Raven" every year at Halloween. She does 1984 and shows "The Lives of Others" along with. She's discarded stuff from the textbooks by certain authors because she knows of other work by that author that the kids will like more. She ditched one of the Canterbury Tales (I forget which) and substituted the bawdy "Miller's Tale" instead because she knows the kids will relate to it better.

    Ultimately curriculum will be a mix of what's dictated from on high, and what you bring to the classroom. As a beginning teacher, you'll need to keep your head down and attract very little attention to yourself. Once you're tenured, you can push the envelope a little more.

    As for class discussions... it's hit or miss depending on your class and your relationship with the kids. Some classes will interact wonderfully, and the discussions will be in-depth and productive. Other classes will be like pulling teeth just to get a few comments. This isn't necessarily a reflection on you or your teaching ability. As the kids get to know you, they'll be more comfortable opening up. My wife tends not to punish swears or obnoxious behavior that's just damn funny. If it's done right, the rules can be broken, and the kids appreciate that. They also know they better get it right, or she'll have their asses. She rarely has discipline problems.

    Hope this helps somewhat. It takes a lot of finding your own way, and customizing the lessons others are willing to let you have. It will take you several years just to get your systems in place and functioning smoothly. And you'll likely be bumped from grade to grade in the beginning, which means that until you've got lessons for all the high school grades, you'll constantly be re-inventing the wheel. But that's just how it goes. Don't give up.
  19. MonksMac macrumors 6502a


    Dec 5, 2005
    I'm a Sophomore in Pre-AP English Two.
    Typical day in English for me is pretty simple. My school runs on a Block schedule so the classes are about 90 minutes long.
    We start off with a vocabulary warm up on the computer and go to lunch(all lunches at my school are during 3rd Period when I have english). Later we might work on an essay or literary analysis,etc. Right now we are studying Julius Caesar so we are doing work with that.
    In regards to other stuff-
    It really helps to get a discussion going. I love it when teachers let us actually talk and discuss things. Maybe you could try the Socratic Method where you ask a question and let the questions/conversation flow naturally.
    Almost all reading is done outside of class except for short selections or when researching online for sources for AP style essay assignments.
    Good Luck! I hope we didn't scare strider42 away from teaching... High school kids aren't that bad.;)
  20. doubleohseven macrumors 6502a


    Jan 13, 2008
    Sydney, Australia
    That's exactly what my English teacher used to do, but we're learning about Shakespeare now so we, as a class, get to discuss about the plays and what happened in certain scenes and acts.

    Yeah, we aren't. :p
  21. iTeen macrumors 65816


    Aug 13, 2007
    One thing that I really would want to emphasize is your relationships with students. From personal experience, I know that teachers who get more involved and treat their students with respect, will have a class that actually does their work.
    Just don't one of those ******* teachers, nobody likes or respects them.
    Good luck on being a teacher!
    (I am a sophomore)
  22. ZiggyPastorius macrumors 68040


    Sep 16, 2007
    Berklee College of Music
    In my AP English class (Literary Analysis), she assigns us reading for every week on our own time, while we discuss various things (symbolism, plot, themes, et cetera) in some books we read over the summer in an attempt to prepare us for the AP test. I'd say, above all, know what goal you're working towards, and just move towards it as smoothly as possible.

    Edit: And we do lit analysis essays and impromptus and such.

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