Incorporating Intentional Inquiry

P1: Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. In my opinion, this standard has to do with reversing the top-down teacher to student relationship. Instead of assuming we know what students need, even if those assumptions are well-informed, intentional inquiry suggests that we employ student voice when planning for instruction. This can be done in a variety of different ways, but during my internship, I used entrance and exit tickets as ways to encourage students to initiate prior learning, reflect, and self-assess, as well as to inform my lesson planning. I would ask students to weigh in on strategies and activities that worked well for them, specific ways in which lesson clarified their understanding, ways in which they were still confused, and specific content areas or skills in which students felt they still needed support or clarification. For example, after concluding the reading of the novel, The Things They Carried, my junior classes were to complete an essay as their final writing assessment of the year. BHS and these classes in particular, heavily emphasize the development of writing skills through practice, so my students had already written multiple essays in response to various texts studied throughout the year. These students are very familiar with the essay writing process now, and are growing more confident in their ability to develop, organize and present their own ideas. As is her habit, my mentor teacher handed back the previous essay the students had written the day before they were to begin crafting their final essay for the year. As an exit ticket for the day, I had students evaluate their essays by identifying two areas of strength and two areas of weakness or areas they needed additional support before writing their last essay.

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This intentional inquiry not only provided students with an opportunity for reflection and self-assessment, but also provided me the opportunity to tailor and differentiate instruction, so as to support the unique needs of the students in each class. Not only did students receive specific support, but also, they felt they had agency in their education and were actively engaged during my support lessons because they recognized that I trusted their self-assessments, I listened and responded, and when given the opportunity, they wanted to improve. Intentional inquiry allows educators to make learner-centered decisions about how best to tailor and differentiate instruction. According to Models of Teaching by Bruce Joyce, Marsha Weil, and Emily Calhoun, research suggests that “inquiry-oriented curriculums appear to stimulate growth in other; apparently unconnected areas” (2009, pg. 88). Intentional inquiry not only initiates prior learning and encourages the making of new connections through reflection and critical thinking, but also invites students to be more actively engaged in their own learning. When students participate as active members of the discovery process, they are more likely to remember the information taught and apply critical thinking skills in the future, which are key reasons that I will continue to use intentional inquiry as a means of providing purposefully designed lessons and activities.

Using Technology to Make Instruction More Relevant and Accessible

P4:Practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction. Integrating technology appropriately means using technology to engage students, provide authentic learning opportunities, and to enhance and deepen student understanding. Technology has become such an integral part of students’ lives. For example, although my high school has a pretty lenient cell-phone policy, rare are the days I conclude a lesson without having had to ask a student to put away his or her cell phone. Consequently, I often feel like technology is my adversary, a catalyst for distraction and disruption. Still, I am trying to reimagine my perspective of technology and consider ways I can use technology to support instruction rather than distract from it. This is a reflection is evidence of a time during my internship in which I used technology to bridge gaps between students and content in order to increase student interest and make learning relevant and interesting.

When I told my sophomore students that we were going to begin a unit on Shakespeare’s Othello, there were many moans and groans. I asked students why and they said Shakespeare’s language was too difficult, confusing and hard to understand. A fellow student teacher and I racked our brains to create a gateway lesson using technology that would encourage students to see the lyricism and themes of Othello through the lens of hip-hop in effort to show students that the language Shakespeare uses is not something they have to be afraid of—we decided to try to provide a new perspective. We created and projected a Prezi to create visual interest and organization for the lesson, we watched a Ted Talk presentation, we listened to rap and hip-hop, we evaluated lyrics and connected those to themes all in effort to make Shakespeare language more approachable and relevant. During the Ted Talk video, students are asked to differentiate between hip-hop lyrics from popular artists and lines from Shakespearean plays making Shakespearean language more accessible by exposing the lyrical quality inherent in hip-hop, and iambic pentameter is compared to the rhythm of popular hip-hop beats by rapping popular lines from Shakespeare. I paused the video frequently and had students vote whether certain lines spoken were from hip-hop or Shakespeare and students were surprised to see that it was difficult to differentiate between the two.

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Also, as a class, we looked at an online article from The Atlantic comparing modern hip-hop and rap artists to Shakespeare based on the number of unique words used within their respective works. We discussed the implications and why some artists might forgo lyricism and “the imparting of knowledge” in order to sell albums. Then, we listened to specific lyrics of such artists by way of the internet, and analyzed the lyrics for themes common in hip-hop. According to a New York Times article, “Under the Influence of…Music?” from 2008, teenagers spend an average of 2.5 hours a day listening to music and so we had students make a list of common themes found in the music they listen to, then we connected those to Shakespeare in order to explain that Shakespeare uses lyricism as a social commentary just as does hip-hop.

This lesson employed a variety of technologies and mediums that not only engaged students, but also gave them a context with which to connect to Shakespeare. Through the use of technology, we established connections (that might otherwise have been impossible) between their world and the world of Shakespeare. As a result, students found the classic works of this English playwright to be less daunting, abstract and removed. Although employing the use of technology does not come naturally, after seeing students interested and excited about Shakespeare as a result of this lesson, I will continue to strive to incorporate and experiment with technology as a teaching tool to make learning more relevant and interesting for all learners.