Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Making Meaning in Literature Grades 6-8
Conversations in Literature — Workshop

About Making Meaning in Literature: A Video Library, Grades 6-8

Individual Clip Descriptions

1. Introducing the Envisionment-Building Classroom
2. Building a Literary Community
3. Asking Questions
4. Facilitating Discussion
5. Seminar Discussion
6. Dramatic Tableaux
7. Readers as Individuals
8. The Teacher’s Role in a Literary Community
9. Whole Group Discussions

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About This Video Clip

Featured Texts

Classroom Snapshot

Classroom Lesson Plan

Professional Reflection

Teacher Tools
Additional Resources

Classroom Snapshot

School: Oyster River Middle School
Location: Durham, New Hampshire
No. of Students in School: 800
Teacher: Linda Rief
No. of Years Teaching: 18
Grade: 8th
Subject: Language Arts
No. of Students in the Classroom: 25

Oyster River Middle School is located in Durham, New Hampshire, not far from the state university. Serving 800 students in grades five through eight, the school strives to maintain its focus on students as individuals, and on their particular educational, social, and environmental needs as adolescents. Students are assigned to a team of four teachers (social studies, science, math, and language arts) who will work with them for the duration of the school year. Teams are responsible for between 100 and 110 students, and class size stands at 25 to 28. Every quarter, a different specialist in music, art, health, or life skills joins the team. Students do not have to pass a high-stakes exam at the end of middle school, but they do participate in testing through the New Hampshire Educational Improvement and Assessment Program (NHEIA). The state evaluates school performance based on the results.

a student in the classroomClasses at Oyster River are heterogeneously grouped and meet every day for 55-minute periods. The daily schedule includes a common planning time, allowing teams to check on the progress and well being of individual students in a timely fashion and to meet with parents as necessary. Teams also use these daily meetings to explore possibilities for making cross-curricular connections-particularly those with local significance. One year, for instance, in a collaborative project with the music teacher, Linda Rief's eighth-grade students studied the nearby Lowell mills from various academic perspectives and capped the experience off by writing and producing a musical.

Ms. Rief incorporates multiple intelligences and alternative assessment opportunities into her teaching, believing that young adolescents need choices in what they study and how they express what they have learned. Her students keep portfolios and academic journals to provide a long-term view of their learning, and they decide which pieces to submit in their portfolios for a grade. They may even place work from other classes in their language arts portfolio. Ms. Rief believes in using evaluation as a teaching tool, saying that "evaluation should keep them moving forward; it shouldn't stop them." Together, she and her classes establish grading criteria, and students often grade their work before she does. They also complete quarterly self-evaluations to measure their own progress over time.

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