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AP Literature and Composition

Yesterday I observed a veteran teacher in her Advanced Placement Literature and Composition class.  The class is relatively small–twenty-two students and all seniors.  I am accustomed to classes with all four high school grades in them and thirty-two students.  Art classes, especially large ones can easily get out of hand.  Art is a hands on class where interaction and talking are encouraged (at appropriate times).  For that reason, I am very interested in learning how different teachers manage their classes during different types of classroom activities.  So far this school year, I have watched problem-solving, lectures, lab work, drama performances, and homework review.  Yesterday’s class was one where students presented their compositions to the class and were graded on them as they did so.

The teacher has a relaxed way with this class.  She took attendance while students were chatting and getting settled and then she reminded them that they would be presenting.  She told students that they would be reading their introductory paragraph plus their favorite paragraph from the body of their composition for their presentation.  Students had the option of going to the podium in front of the class or standing or sitting at their desks.  There were students who did all three and several students who opted to wait until next class to present.  No students were pressured to go up and speak but they all expected to do it and giving them choices about how and when they would speak to the class made it easier for those who had more difficulty speaking in front of others.

The compositions were student reactions to the book The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  It is about a young black man who is struggling to find his place in 1930s American society, a place where blacks were often ignored or treated as if they were unimportant–treated in such a way that they were made to feel invisible.  There was a variety of reactions to the book.  One student wrote about the betrayals of whites in the protagonist’s life and how he had to come to self-realization that way, and another talked about the focus on black men needing self-actualization, while all the female characters were viewed as distractions or bad influences.

There was some time left after the presentations so for the last ten minutes of class, students read romantic poetry that they had started on previously – Blake, Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Coleridge, Shelley.  They will be writing their own romantic poems after studying these.

Watching this teacher, I could see how she put her personality to work in her management style.  She has a gentle, calm way with the students that is a little self-deprecating (in that way where really good comedian make fun of themselves so you can all laugh at your own flaws more readily).  It puts them at ease and sets a nice tone in the classroom.  All of the teacher I have seen who seem to have a great rapport with their students and who manage their classes well, use their strengths and weaknesses to their advantage.

~ by anitawesto on January 19, 2013.