Over the first days at the Summer Institute, I’ve been thinking about the differences between teaching Language Arts and History, specifically how teaching those different subjects has affected how I teach. In some ways I felt more freedom as a Language Arts teacher, because I felt like I wasn’t really sure what I was doing anyway, so I might as well experiment.
Even though our school doesn’t put a strong emphasis on content memorization and we’re not beholden to any state or federal testing, I think I feel a stronger impulse to content delivery in history. I also get the sense that students have come to expect that, especially by eighth grade. I’m also aware that is, for the most part, what is emphasized in the Upper School, and so I don’t want to leave them totally without the skills to learn from that style of teaching.
On Friday as we created the maps of the way that writing circulates in our classrooms, I realized that I felt pretty good about the opportunities I was creating for circulation in some classes, but not others. Because of the nature of my blended learning class (students meet two days a week in person and on other days research independently and write online), I think that writing circulates more widely and naturally. I’ve also built more opportunities for students to make personal connections in their writing to the topics that we study in that class.
Throughout the Institute, I want to continue thinking about how I can hone the ways in which I ask my students to write in my middle school history classes, beyond taking notes or writing essays. When I reflect on it, students do have some good opportunities for non-analytical writing, but I think there’s room to create additional opportunities and to vary instructional methods by using writing.