When choosing new literature to teach your classes (or perhaps you have a teaching assignment which is new to you as far as curriculum), what do you do to prepare aside from reading the literature in question? Do you have learning communities, a seasoned teacher on your hallway, journals, a go-to website, or do you reinvent the wheel? What are your secrets? How do you keep a unit on an old favorite fresh and new for you and your students?
I agree with most posters here. My first few years of teaching, I would turn to veteran teachers for advice, often panicking before teaching a novel. However, the longer I teach, the more I realize that no handouts, no preformed lesson plans will take the place of close contextual analysis. Therefore, my approach to every novel is similar: students complete dialectical journals which inform their wiritng and discussion on the novel. Interwoven in these discussions are projects, both group and individual, which often result from trial and error, or student suggestions. Oh, and LOTS OF WRITING! Our study of each novel becomes an interactive discussion with the text, a series of discoveries and revelations informed by our own readings of the novel (not informed by someone who posted documents on the internet).
I pull from many sources and then come up with something on my own. It really depends on how much time I have to complete the lesson. When you have five preps, you sometimes do use something straight from the web or from a teacher resource book. However, my favorite lessons are ones that I created or ones that I found and tweaked.
Backward design is definitely the way I think intuitively, and it is geat to hear that most of you like to be creative too.
I like to see that there are so many teachers who want to take responsibility for their own lesson plans and not just pull something off the internet! I also like the idea of Backward Design. We have a few teachers in our district that have started doing this and really feel it is beneficial.
I am going to join the group of responders who reinvent the wheel. I find that when I take the time to do things myself it usually works fairly well and many times the lesson takes on a life of its own.
I'm joining the club. When I teach a novel for the first time, I readily admit to my students that we are exploring this work together. As I read along with them (I'm reading, of course, for the second time), I like to pose my own questions about the text, questions that I'm not sure about. I actually think my classes go better this way--when I not trying so hard to lead tmy students in a certain direction.
It's also important to me that I own the lesson. I may get ideas from other teachers and I certainly do my share of surfing the internet to see what's out there, but I must somehow tweak these ideas and make them my own. And from these posts, it seems that I am not alone.
Wow. I'm joining the list of wheel re-inventors, but I'm wondering why so many of us feel the need to do so. Probably because no one thing suits our specific needs. Some of us like to have students write more, some prefer projects, some give lots of quizzes...or whatever the case may be. To me, this small sampling verifies my theory about teachers: the majority are dedicated to the profession more than the paycheck, to learning more than laziness. It would be the easiest thing in the world to copy what's already been created; instead, in order to make our lives better and to ensure the best learning situation for the students, we're willing to work. Ahhh. Renews my faith in my fellow educators. Thanks!
Many times when teaching new material, I am unable to find, or don't like what's available and have to physically create my own study guide, questions, and tests for the material in question.
Somtimes the material comes with a study guide and I have to tone it down for the particular age group I want to present it to that year. In this way, I've learned to be creative and resourceful and that nothing is impossible!
Though I don't teach literature, I do have to have History lesson plans I need to come up with, and I think this applies to literature plans, too. I have three words for you, borrow, borrow, borrow. I am constantly talking to my colleagues and using their ideas. But I tend to tweak them for my classes and my teaching style.
I do like to reinvent the wheel in most respects. Literature - and history, and essays, etc. need fresh eyes in my belief. So I like to come up with my own questions and see where they lead. The other benefit of doing this is the material stays fresh for me as a teacher too, and the lessons and discussions don't seem as canned or stale.
I've found that if I start with the end in mind (a final project or exam) I keep a better focus in writing lessons. I like things to have a common goal, especially when it is my first time teaching a book. Then, every subsequent time I go through it, I end up tweaking things and figuring out what I want to be the main focus of the entire unit.
I also tend to revolve things around literary elements more than anything at first - until I get really comfortable with a text and can tie these in without necessarily making them the goal.
I reinvent the wheel most of the time to be honest - I find that although this takes lots of work it really helps me to get to grips with the new work in question whereas if I use activities other colleagues have created it never works as well for some reason. Mind you, I do like creating activities and enjoy the whole process...
As far as teaching old favourites, I have to vary assessment methods every year I teach the same work and I am always trying new things or trying to incorporate different activities into teaching the same novel. One great innovation I did whilst teaching Merchant of Venice was doing a kind of Oprah where Oprah interviewed some of the main characters and invited the audience to ask these characters questions (which they had in advance to help them prepare). It was amazing what came out of it and acted as an alternative assessment method to writing a character analysis essay.