Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Techy English Class

As I have previously mentioned, I teach English 9 & 10 at San Pasqual Academy(SPA), a residential high school for foster youth. I am using two periods of my upcoming first-quarter English 10 classes as my learning setting. My English 10 classes are divided into two periods of students who are grouped by similar assessment scores. Most of the students who will be enrolled in my classes have already been in my class for English 9. As a result of abuse and/or growing up in the foster care system, many of my students come to my classes reading at a fourth grade level. However, by the time they take the California High School Exit Exam during their sophomore year, around 80% of them pass on their first attempt. This is partially due to the fact that almost all of my freshmen and many sophomores are also enrolled in support classes for decoding, reading, and writing. Around 20% of my students are on Individualized Education Plans or 504's due to learning disabilities or other challenging conditions, but I do not currently have a special education teacher or assistant in my classroom. However, I have a bilingual adult teacher's assistant, who sometimes works with individuals or small groups. Around 25% of my students are bilingual; most speak Spanish, and one speaks fluent Cambodian.

Thankfully, my school district strongly supports using technology in the classroom, and I have plenty of useful tools at my disposal. I recently acquired a Dell laptop cart, so each of my students checks out a laptop for use during each class period. I also have three other student computers, a teacher's assistant computer, and a teacher laptop that I am allowed to take home nightly. My laptop normally sits on a table at the front of my room, so it can connect to a docking station that has a flat screen monitor and connections to a keyboard, mouse, speakers, document camera, and Smartboard. My projector is mounted to the wall and my Smartboard. I also have a laser printer on a counter in the back of my room that is networked to all of the computers in the room by a wireless Internet connection. Between the Smartboard at the front of the room and printer counter at the back, my students sit in desks that are somewhat arranged in a square--my room is a small rectangle and my desks have chairs attached, so my seating options are limited. My students sit facing the Smartboard for direct instruction, but turn their desks to the walls if they begin independent or group work on the laptops. Of course, I also have all of the typical high-school supplies in my classroom: a bookshelf filled with novels and dictionaries, textbooks on the counter, student work on the walls (most is actually print-outs of online assignments), bulletin boards of current units, posters of projects, standards, and inspirational quotations. The side of my room also has a door that leads to two small offices, which I use as storage and a workspace for my students and assistant. (In addition to all of this technology, each of my students has a computer in his/her bedroom, a computer with Internet access in his/her house's living room and access to on-campus after school computer labs.)

My school district provides access to many programs and tools such as Microsoft Office, Adobe, PLATO Learning, Rosetta Stone, Discovery Education, Net Trekker, My Gradebook, Atomic Learning, and Inspiration. However, in my classroom, I mostly use free online tools. Though paid subscription software, such as PLATO are useful lesson supplements, I prefer to use free tools that my students can access outside of the classroom and after high school. I use Blogger, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Voki, and Delicious on a daily basis, but I integrate at least one new online tool into my lessons almost weekly. I also maintain a classroom blog, which currently serves as the skeleton for my courses--within it I post daily assignments and resources. But, I am currently working with my district's technology team as they develop our new Moodle server. Within the next few weeks, I hope to be hosting my remaining summer school courses on Moodle. Also, each of my student's creates and maintains a blog which contains a mixture of academic and personal postings.

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