A little about me: This September marks the twenty-fourth time I've gone back to school as a teacher, always to the same school, the same classroom and the same subject: English. That sounds incredibly boring as I write it, but it has been far from it. Despite all that sameness, I've had so much variety in my career, whether it be the grades I've taught or the ever-changing mix of students who populate my classes. I've taught every grade level, but the last few years I've settled into teaching academic and general grade twelve, grade ten pre-IB and grade eleven IB. Each group has its challenges and rewards, that's for sure! In all of my classes, regardless of the level, I like to focus on learning as a process. Content and texts are tools that I use to hopefully inspire them to be lifelong, independent learners.
My favourite novel: I always have such a hard time picking just one, because I've had so many books leave their mark on me, starting with my early obsession with the Anne of Green Gables series. If I were forced to pick one, however, I would have to choose Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible because of her beautiful prose and amazing narrative technique.
My favourite novel to teach is definitely To Kill a Mockingbird. As with all of the novels and plays that I use, we start with an inquiry question that focuses the students on a bigger reason to study the text, beyond being able to plug in answers to chapter questions. With Mockingbird we explore what we can learn about tolerance, a question that we apply to all of the texts we study during the semester. Students still do literary analysis, using reader's notebooks and lots of cooperative learning, but we do so through the lens of what we're learning about being more tolerant. In the end, the students do an inquiry project where they have to be a hero for a mockingbird in their community. This takes their learning off the page and into their own lives - it's one of my favourite projects ever. If you'd like to check out my inquire unit, you can find it HERE.
A first day activity: My back to school activity serves multiple purposes: it allows students to get to know each other and make up some class rules as they get out of their seats. I also get them to stretch their creative muscles a little too, as they show me a bit about their skills as an English student.
Enjoy whatever time you have left and good luck with back to school!