John Hamm's Teaching Portfolio

Community Involvement in the Curriculum

This is an excerpt from a curriculum that I revised to include community involvement by the students.

Reflection on revised lessons and curriculum:

The Freeport curriculum did not include any lessons, which could be an issue in itself. The author created these three lessons as examples of how easy it is to incorporate social participation elements into the curriculum.

The first lesson is designed to show that the teacher can continue using the standard texts, like Romeo and Juliet. But instead of writing specifically about the text, the teacher asks the students to look at their community and see how they can relate issues from the text to it in a positive way.

The second lesson builds on the students’ desire to express their opinion, thereby engaging them in the lesson. Students will read real world texts instead of prepared materials. They will still engage in the skills required for the standard tests, but they will be applied to real life situations.

The final lesson addresses a necessary speech element. The author had to memorize and recite a Shakespearean stanza to the class in 9th grade. Reciting Shakespeare would hardly go over well at a common council meeting or social event. Speaking to motivate and influence people requires special skills and practice that most English classes are failing to teach.

Isn’t it time the curriculum reflected the real world?

Three lessons for the revised 9th grade English curriculum

Lesson 1. Romeo and Juliet: Urban living

Objective: Students will write and submit a letter or article to the editor of their local paper, or school paper, suggesting ways to reduce violence in their community.

Standard ELA1: Language for Information and Understanding: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding.
Key Idea ELA1.SW2: Speaking and writing to acquire and transmit information requires asking probing and clarifying questions, interpreting information in one’s own words, applying information from one context to another, and presenting the information and interpretation clearly, concisely, and comprehensibly.
Performance Indicator  ELA1.C.SW2A: Students write and present research reports, feature articles, and thesis/support papers on a variety of topics related to all school subjects.

Materials: Scene 1 from Romeo and Juliet

Time: 2 periods (1 to read and prepare, 1 to write article)

Real world connection: Oswego High School has been experiencing increasing gang and racial violence among its students.

Procedure: Have students partner read the introductory scene from Romeo and Juliet (a violent confrontation between two opposing family members). After students have read the scene, students will answer these comprehension questions:
How do gangs affect our neighborhoods?
How does violence perpetuate violence?
What can we do to reduce violence in our neighborhoods and schools?

Students will draft their ideas into individual letters to be submitted to a local news organization for publication.

Assessment: Students have completed and submitted a letter/article to an acceptable publication. The article is free of grammatical errors. The article clearly displays the student’s understanding of the topic, gives supporting arguments, and suggests a solution to the issue. This article will go into the student’s portfolio.

Lesson 2: Everyone has an Opinion

Objectives: Students will respond to an article in the local newspaper with an original written article, expressing their informed opinion on the subject.

Standard ELA2: Language for Literary Response and Expression
Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.
Key Idea ELA2.SW2: Speaking and writing for literary response involves presenting interpretations, analysis, and reactions to the content and language of a text.
Performance Indicator  ELA2.C.SW2C: Students write original pieces in a variety of literary forms, correctly using the conventions of the genre and using structure and vocabulary to achieve an effect.

Materials: Local newspapers

Time: 1 Class period

Real World Connection: Educated and literate people write and respond to articles and opinion pieces that they read in their local papers every day.

Procedure: Students will search through a local news source to find an article that discusses an issue that they are interested in. They will read and form a response to the article, with the intention of submitting it to the news source that it came from.

Their article may be in support of, or against the article they are responding to. Students will do research at the library to find supporting details for their opinion piece.

Assessment: Students will include in their portfolio the article that they responded to, alongside their response. The response will be free from grammatical errors. The response will reflect the genre (i.e. an opinion piece) and use appropriate vocabulary. Finally, the piece will be submitted to the appropriate news source.

Lesson 3: The Interdisciplinary Common Council

Objective: The student will conceive a speech in response to a researched social or scientific issue, which they will present to the class.

Standard ELA3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation: Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
Key Idea ELA3.SW2: Speaking and writing for critical analysis and evaluation requires presenting opinions and judgments on experiences, ideas, information, and issues clearly, logically, and persuasively with reference to specific criteria on which the opinion or judgment is based.
Performance Indicator ELA3.C.SW2A: Students present orally and in writing well-developed analyses of issues, ideas, and texts, explaining the rationale for their positions and analyzing their positions from a variety of perspectives in such forms speeches, debates, thesis/support papers, literary critiques, and issues analyses.

Time: 3 Periods (1 to write and practice speech, 1 for meeting)

Real Life Connection: Average citizens voice their opinions at Common Council meetings on a range of issues that affect their neighborhoods and communities.

Procedure: Working with the history and the science classes, students will identify an issue that they are concerned about in their community. This may include such things as social inequalities and environmental concerns. They will do research in those classes to gain a thorough insight on the issue.

In the English class, students will learn how to speak in public and study famous speeches. Then they will compose a speech that could be presented at a Common Council meeting. The class will act as the Common Council, voting on the effectiveness of the speaker’s argument.

Assessment: The student’s speech will be included in their portfolio. The speech may be written, audio recorded, or video taped. The final product should include examples of research from the other classes. The speech should evaluate the various perspectives, present evidence, and use persuasive elements.


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