Being nearly two months into teaching, planning ahead has never been so important. As I develop new lessons and units, I have been very aware of state and school standards to help guide my thinking. Being at a private school gives me a unique perspective on these standards as I draw from them and supplement them with school-specific standards. In addition to the influence that these standards have on my planning, I take into account the level and ability of my students as well as their individual interests and passions. Throughout my internship and time at Seattle Pacific, I have had many experienced teachers inform me of the importance of a compelling curriculum. Student engagement and interest plays an extremely influential role in how I have continued to plan and is a skill that I have begun to develop. A key aspect of student engagement and learning has to do with their ability to make connections to either outside content areas or prior knowledge. Tapping into this resource is extremely important and has allowed students to flourish and succeed.
It is important for students to understand the purpose of learning. Each time I begin a unit, I give students an overview of what they can expect from me and what kind of work I expect from them. Before introducing a new topic, I review the previous one in order to help students make connections from one to the next. In doing this, students are given a purpose for their learning and they can be sure that the things we are doing in class were deliberately planned. Furthermore, a school-wide practice that I will adopt into my future teaching plans is that teachers share at the beginning of each lesson a daily objective. This guides student thinking and expectations and allows them to see a purpose for the class session.
Integration of various subject matters is extremely important for student learning and engagement. When students are able to make connections to previous knowledge, they will be more likely to remember the material. That being said, it is also important to help students develop additional skills that may not appear obvious in certain subject areas. For me, reading and writing go hand-in-hand with the social studies. When planning my lessons, I am continually trying to think of different ways in which I can incorporate reading and writing into the lessons. Researching different reading strategies and writing activities has helped, and one of the things on which I focus is bringing in material that students may not typically see in a history classroom. For example, one specific lesson that I recently conducted in the American history class involved the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. This lesson is a strong example of how I incorporated reading and writing into history while accessing prior knowledge that the students had. Earlier in the school year, the students heard a guest speaker share about their experience living in an internment camp. I first asked students in the class to share with me what the learned and remembered from the speaker. After sharing more information about the internment camps, I gave students a copy of excerpts from a novel that shares the personal experiences of a Japanese American girl living in Seattle during World War II. After starting the reading together in class, they were to finish reading the selection on their own and then write a one page response to the reading. Part of what made this lesson so successful, I believe, was that students were interested in the material and were given a homework assignment that was meaningful to them. The lesson also gave them another chance to improve their reading and writing skills, which is something I strive to do as often as possible.