Resources from Teaching High School

This page showcases materials I created during my ten years at Oviedo High School outside Orlando, Florida. In my time there, I taught English 9 at the gifted, honors, standard, and reading-intensive levels. The documents below highlight a selection of what I created for each class. I also include resources I used for teaching grammar, as well as campus-wide documents I prepared, such as one of our SACS reports.

English 9 Gifted

Teaching gifted classes made me much more comfortable in the classroom because I had students who would stand up to me on issues and who enjoyed unresolvable dilemmas. These files were simply guidelines for what proved to be exciting classes.

OHS Honors English Primer

Before I was hired, the English Department at my school worked together to build a standardized document that all teachers could pull material from and all students could use as a resource over their four-year tenure at the institution. As I became more involved in the school, I took on the project of standardizing, streamlining, consolidating, and enhancing the existing document. This version is for my gifted classes and includes a section on sentence diagramming.

Course Syllabus

I had fun over-doing this one. I wanted to try and convince the parents of my first class of gifted students that I somewhat knew what I was doing.

Odyssey Theme Project

Here’s my attempt at dressing up a rather dry and academic assignment so that it looks and sounds more interesting than it really is. The result? I learned that the gimmicks that lead to a successful assignment for unmotivated students actually frustrate students who are intent on learning. In short, gifted students actively dislike the fluff.

English 9 Standard

I started teaching this course when I became a teacher, and I really did enjoy the program. I liked seeing how much fun I could have with the material, and how interested I could get the students in a subject that is traditionally uninteresting to them. I also made sure to make the class challenging enough for determined students to comfortably and confidently move up into Honors English their sophomore year.

Learning Characters

Using Microsoft Publisher, my students make newsletters about the events taking place in Maycomb, Alabama—home of Scout Finch and the other characters from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The goal of the project is to emphasize point of view in the novel. Kinda flashy project info sheet, and one of the first things I did for school using Apple’s Pages.

Building a Publication

This presentation identifies the steps in the process of using the Newsletter Wizard in Publisher. While presenting this, I switch to-and-from an actual Publisher document to show students how it works.

Elements of Design

When I introduce students to making newsletters, I sometimes want to introduce them to the fundamental principles of good design; this presentation explains what helps make a product look professional and provides graphics that help illustrate the difference between fonts with and without serifs.

Research Project Overview

Provides an outline of the goal of the semester-long research project, the steps involved, and how to proceed. Includes the step-by-step creation of a sample outline.

Intensive Reading (using Read 180)

I taught an intensive-reading course for several years using Scholastic’s Read 180 program. Because student engagement is a tremendous challenge with that level of course and content, I created documents that were easy to read, simple, and deceptively fun-looking. My syllabus gave the impression that we had an active, involved class. The other newsletter-format documents served as mini-syllabi for each quarter, providing an overview of all the coursework we’d be doing that term, plus rubrics for each of the written assignments.

Course Syllabus

This syllabus provided formidable challenges. A syllabus is supposed to be a review of everything coming up for the year, but had never taught this program before, and my training for it completed very shortly before the school year started. I had to guess about a lot of what would happen, so this document is light on the details. It worked well in two regards: the shorter syllabus was less intimidating to the students, and the lack of specificity led me to create the quarterly handouts, below.

First Quarter—Decisions and Consequences

I wanted to try my hand at making overview handouts for each quarter of a school year. I got special permission from my principal to print the documents in color, and I got to be on a first-name basis with the director of the print shop for our district. I was immensely proud of getting it all to work out; my students didn’t notice quite as much as I had hoped.

Second Quarter—Heroes

This quarter, I had to include The OdysseyA Bug’s Life, and The Incrediblesplus all the regular work for the term. It was an interesting challenge, and I enjoyed splattering the pages with stills from the films I would be featuring. The dominant color of orange was a bit tricky to manage, but I think it turned out well.

Third Quarter—Past, Present, and Future

Trying something different from the previous two quarters, I took the idea of race relations from our nation’s past, plus classic films, and created this handout in basically black and white. It made the image of MLK, Jr. stand out well, and it makes this handout stand out just enough.

Fourth Quarter—Love and Sacrifice

This document never got published; in fact, some of the text is still filler. The pacing of my course started to drag in the third quarter with the study of a novel. I ended up not being able to use the structure I wanted for the fourth quarter and opted for a less-busy backup plan. This quarter was, however, my first attempt at a portfolio. On hindsight, it may have been a bit too formal and intimidating for ninth-graders who struggle with reading.

Resources for Teaching Grammar

Taking a cue from my own ninth-grade English teacher, I chose to teach my students the technical side of grammar. I believed it helped with their sentence structure, with their ability to read complex sentences, and with their ability to negotiate language. Foreign-language teachers often thanked me, saying my students were the only ones who came to them comfortable with grammar. I took it as a personal challenge to get my standard-level students competent with the basics of sentence construction. The documents below were the tricks of my trade.

Parts of Speech Map

A visual diagram showing how each part of speech relates to every other one. I call it “The World, According to Nouns.” It works beautifully with the process of analyzing sentences, and I’ve found it makes a ton of sense to my students.

Steps to Analyzing Sentences

More grammar than you’d ever care to see. Before diagramming a single sentence, my students first learn to analyze them. It’s something I stole from my mentor teacher that helps make a ton of sense out of grammar. This presentation helps get the point across and helps define the steps used.

Function/Equivalent Chart

Originally designed by my predecessor, this table helps clarify how the function of a word is directly related to its part of speech. I tried to give it a slightly smoother, cleaner, and more modern look, but the idea is necessarily complex and messy by nature.

Verb Book Revisions

Using the Elements of Language text from Holt, Rinehart, and Winston was great, but the level of detail in their section on verbs was neither reassuring nor sophisticated, so I re-wrote it to include more specific and formal verb types (to help with diagramming). I made sure to mimic the design elements of the text so it blended in with the real book. My kids thought I had used a copier or scanner. I just laughed.

Campus/Departmental Documents

The longer I spent at OHS, the more I liked to get involved in how the department runs. I’ve worked on a number of projects for things like the Curriculum Fair and our report for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; since these don’t fit into any classes listed below, they are presented here.

2006 SACS Report

This report gathered information from the four corners of the earth, compiled it, evaluated it, and reported it to people who came to visit our campus. I was responsible for assembling, standardizing, and formatting the information gathered by various committees. Yes, we earned accreditation.

Curriculum Fair Presentation

Each year, my school hosted a “curriculum fair” for parents of incoming eighth-graders to visit our campus and learn what classes their children could take. English is a required class, but everyone wanted to know if their kids should take the standard, honors, or gifted variety. This presentation cleared up the differences and freed us up to answer specific questions.

Curriculum Fair Handout

Designed to follow from the Curriculum Fair Presentation, this document served as a flashy-yet-simple handout so parents can take a little bit of English Goodness home with them. There’s little substance to it, but it helped parents leave feeling better informed.
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