What Happens When an English Teacher and an Instructional Coach Team Up?

This school year I was challenged by our Director of Modern Learning to partner with at least one teacher every month and collaborate on a project. It just so happened that one of our Middle School English teachers sought me out. “Hey! I read this book with my kids called The Wednesday Wars every year, but this year, I want to do something cool, fun, hands-on and engaging with them to get them to really understand the theme of the book. Can you help?” I’m your girl! Over the past month, the two of us have had multiple meetings to put this project together. Where did we start? What is the process we are going through? What’s the outcome? I can answer a few of these questions, but the project has not come to an end just yet so check in soon to see our student examples and further reflections.

Where did we start? To begin, I asked her what her objectives were and what, if anything, students in the past have struggled with understanding or grasping with this novel study. She said that she wanted her students to understand the “coming of age” message that is taught throughout the novel. (See our jumbled, original notes and ideas here.) Originally, we wanted the end result to be her students interviewing someone at home that could share a life lesson/coming of age story with them and then we would have the students share these interviews with their classmates. As we continued to talk, we further developed the project- adding in elements of writing, debating, synthesizing, applying, teaching, a public speaking element, and connecting with other students in different grade levels.

The teacher in The Wednesday Wars novel uses 7 different works written by Shakespeare to teach her student, Holling, lessons about life. We used this hidden message within the novel to develop our project.

Check out our full, updated (still messy) Lesson Plan here.

In a snapshot, our project looks a little something like this:

Step 1: Discuss the 7 Shakespearean stories that are scattered throughout the novel with the students. Students will split into groups to research 1 of the 7 Shakespearean stories and then present their research to the class. The class will be expected to take notes while other students present their research.

Step 2: Discuss the concept of the interview with the students. What are you trying to get from your interview? Why are we interviewing people? A group of digital production upper school students will create a “How To Interview” video that teaches the middle schoolers interviewing skills and the video will be shared with the middle school students.

Step 3: Students will continue to work on the interview at home. They will need to cut the interview down to 90 seconds.

Step 4: Students will then be asked to think of the lesson/coming of age story that the person they interviewed shared with them and decide which of the 7 works of Shakespeare it is connected to. They will have to defend their answer in writing on a discussion thread and comment on other student’s work allowing for room to debate answers and beliefs.

Step 5: It just so happens that the 5th graders completed a life lessons project (check it out here) in September. Middle school students will be asked to view a few of the 5th graders’ life lesson projects and respond in writing on a discussion board as to which work of Shakespeare the 5th graders’ life lesson connected to.

Step 6: Students will compose an essay that will be made up of 4 paragraphs. (Introduction, body paragraph 1 (interview connected to work of Shakespeare), body paragraph 2 (5th graders’ project connected to work of Shakespeare) and conclusion).

Step 7: Students will be asked to create 4 visuals using their iPad Pros that represent each of their paragraphs and verbally present their findings to the class.

Even though this project is not complete, as I reflect, I love thinking of the process that we went through. We started with, “What is the objective? What is the learning goal/outcome?” followed by asking ourselves, “What occurs within the book and how can we connect this to our project?” I loved how we found a way to use the 7 works of Shakespeare that are truly discussed throughout the book within our project. Students are able to dive deeper into the works of Shakespeare while also making a real-world connection to the fact that Shakespeare used literature to teach life lessons. I also love the fact that this project connected not two, but three classes -the middle school students, the 5th graders, and the upper school students who will be teaching the middle school students interview skills. Looking forward to seeing how these turn out and the awesome learning that takes place along the way!

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