Freshman English Curriculum

My school is currently in the process of redefining the curriculum of all of the classes under the concept of PLC. (Professional Learning Communities)  I’ve blogged about this before.  In general, the idea that all 9th grade English students should finish the year with the same basic skills is a good one.  Unfortunately, it’s really hard to keep teachers from defining what those skills are into definitions that are so strict there is no flexibility left in the curriculum.  My fellow English teachers waffle between too scared to make any decisions because they might be wrong and boldly plunging forward without pausing to evaluate.

I’ve been thinking about how to best make sure that my classes hit the state and local benchmarks, but still reflect my teaching and allow me to do what I feel is best for student learning.  It’s crazy, I know.  Frankly, if this PLC ends up with a recommendation that I don’t agree with, I will probably shut my door and do my thing.  More and more I think that decisions that are made in groups are ridiculous.

However, that is beside the point.  I’ve been looking at things I’ve taught over the last few years and I’ve come to a conclusion:  If I taught a Shakespeare Unit and a Writing Workshop, I could cover every single benchmark for 9th Grade English.  And I could probably do it all in one semester.  Nine Weeks for each unit.  So, I could call first semester the warmup semester.  Try to cover some real basics.  Get some terminology covered.  Then, in the spring, I would hit it hard.

Is this a bad idea?  Do I really need to cover a bunch of short stories that they probably won’t like and will forget within a day?  Doesn’t it make more sense to cover a couple of topics really, really well instead of hitting thirty or more units over the course of a year?  That is, by the way, what my English teaching colleagues have come up with:  Over thirty different units that MUST be taught over the course of the year.  That’s nearly one unit per week.

Rather than a “cookie cutter” philosophy, this could easily be a differentiated instruction method.  There are so many ways to approach the two units, and I feel confident in my teaching abilities for both of these units.  I also would wager a guess that my students would score better on standardized tests after those two units than after any of the thirty units that I am supposed to teach.

In fact, I think I will expand this into two more posts where I cover each of the units in detail.  My only question is to figure out what I will cover in the first semester…

I am the language lover and these are my thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. renaissanceguy said,

    October 7, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I had already expressed my reservations about PLC’s when you mentioned them before. Like you, I hate working in groups. I usually hate the finished product is but have to live with it.

    I think that a brushing-up semester at the beginning of the year would be great. I’ve known other ninth grade teachers who do the same thing. They cover grammatical and stylistic things right off the bat and hold the students to them for the rest of the year. They also cover literary principles that will come up later in the year.

    The whole realm of English teaching and learning is so vast, that I don’t think there is only one right way of doing it.


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