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Robert Gulya
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I think calming nerves always goes back to practice and preparation. I teach high school, so I am able to give students more freedom, but you could structure a debate unit in the following way: -Let students know the areas of debate will be (for my class unit on Nuclear Power we focused on Energy needs, Safety, Security, Proliferation, and Cost) -choose resources that address those areas specifically -appoint a member of each group to be in charge of one of the areas of debate and create a list of arguments "for" and "against" (this will help them evaluate the evidence and be ready to refute counterclaims in a debate) -teach a lesson on bias and how specific resources can be biased -teach a lesson/introduce words for formal debates and show students good models (Thus/ on the other hand/ consequently). Students need the vocabulary if they are going to debate properly As far as nerves are concerned, I sat with students who I know have difficulty in front of groups and organized their ideas onto notecards (with more time I would've done this with the entire class) that they could refer to and/or read off of if necessary.
Amy, I also have had a tough time of late, and I went back to this strategy of writing down the things that make me come to work. It still works. It's normal to let stress and exhaustion hamper our moods, but the first thing to do is be aware of it and make sure we spend some time searching for that positive energy. Remember, you need to model what you want your students to be.
Teaching students to advocate for themselves is the ultimate goal. Being positive and taking an interest in your students outside of their academics is such an important part of making them feel welcome and wanted in the classroom, find a way to create a sense of belonging many students with disabilities lack elsewhere. An example of some of the assessment choices I give (students choose one assignment from each column) Column 1 (visual): Assignment 1: Imagine the school is performing MacBeth. Create a poster advertising it. What characters would be most important? How could you express the mood and tone of the play? Write a paragraph explaining the poster. Assignment 2: Choose a scene from the play to illustrate or perform. What would you characters be wearing? What would their faces look like? Be sure to include as much detail as possible. Write a paragraph that explains the drawing. Assignment 3: Choose a scene from the play to illustrate or perform. What would you characters be wearing? What would their faces look like? Be sure to include as much detail as possible. Write a paragraph that explains the drawing. Column 2 (auditory) Assignment 1: Choose songs to be on a soundtrack for a film version of MacBeth. What songs share the same mood and themes of the book? You should provide a list of at least 3 songs and a paragraph for each explaining why the song fits. Assignment 2: Write a soliloquy from one of the character’s point of view. What would they say if no one could hear? What do they think and feel at a specific moment in the action? Assignment 3: Rewrite a scene from the play for a modern audience. Try to stay true to the action and the mood/tone of the original scene, but you can update the language and situation as necessary. Column 3 (written) Assignment 1: Lady Macbeth is the most interesting and complex character in the play. She is, in fact, the point on which the action pivots: without her there is no play. To what extent do you agree with this view of Macbeth? Assignment 2: A tragic hero is a protagonist, usually of noble birth or high-standing, who brings about his own downfall by a choice brought on by a character flaw. Tragic heroes have several other common features: they undergo meaningful suffering, learn from their mistake somehow, and arouse pity or fear in the audience through their demise. Is Macbeth a tragic hero? Explain why or why not. Assignment 3: Discuss the speech Macbeth gives in Act V, Scene V. How do his words capture one of the major themes in the drama? I do my best to keep the content and skills the same throughout the assessments, so that they can be graded using the same rubric. Building in choice allows students to make their own choices about how they learn best and can best engage with the material, essential skills for when they transition to their careers or college.
Thanks for reading guys! Laural, I really like the idea of setting an agenda for IEP meetings. My meeting almost always run over, and I think it's because members get sidetracked and we spend way too much time talking about things not really related. I'm going to suggest this. Joni, staying a step ahead is a must. Looking unprepared (or, worse, being unprepared) is the easiest way to set yourself up for failure.
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Oct 15, 2013