December 2014

Teacher Spotlight: Jessie Altman

Jessie Altman is a familiar face to many both at FHHS and across the district. Her passion for learning and teaching goes far beyond the classroom; many of her colleagues have had the pleasure of engaging in Jessie’s high quality, high interest presentations during district and building professional development. Over the course of her time at Francis Howell, she’s taken on a variety of leadership roles, including instructional coaching, serving as a PLC Leader, CAL and a McRel Instructional Leader, and sitting on the district PLC Steering Committee. This is all in addition to pursuing her Masters in Administration at Lindenwood University.

Though Jessie is dedicated to her professional development endeavors, her enthusiasm for teaching is evident to anyone who steps in her room. She makes the ELA curriculum exciting and accessible for the three different courses she teaches, combining a plethora of instructional strategies and integration of technology to enhance her lessons. She places great emphasis on students self-monitoring their own effort and achievement, and she strives to ensure that her students leave her classroom not only with a firm grasp of the content, but also with a sense of community and belonging that is cultivated throughout the year in their cooperative learning teams.

ELA Information/Updates

Argumentative Writing PD

As I listen to classes and PLC meetings, I hear great things happening revolving around argumentative writing. As you continue to work with students on argumentative writing please remember the following things:

1. Arguments start with evidence (data), not claims. A claim is what is created based on all the information. If an argument begins with a claim, tunnel vision is created and only evidence that supports that claim is seen. Think of a detective who believes someone to be guilty. That detective will start to only see the evidence that points to him being guilty and may miss (or dismiss) other evidence that proves otherwise. In the classroom, this translates to students who have a very hard time seeing the opposing viewpoint.

2. The true power of an argument comes from the reasoning (warrant) and to get students to think critically about what the warrants are, teachers need to ask them "so what?" between 3-5 times for one piece of evidence until they begin doing that on their own.

3. Teaching argument is as much about thinking and speaking as it is about writing. Maybe even more. Before students can write an argument, they have to be able to put all the pieces together. Thinking through an argument (start to finish) is the hard part; writing it down is the easier part. If your students are struggling with any part of the Toulmin Model, back up and model for students how you arrive at a claim and then have students discuss each part: claim, evidence, warrant(s), counter-arguments.

Technology Tip/Tool: Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool changed my life! It makes taking screen shots so easy with only one click. The other great benefit to this is that you don't have to "snip" your entire screen; you get to draw the box around what you want to take a picture of. To access the Snipping Tool, go to your Start menu in the bottom left hand corner of your desktop. Click on All Programs and then click on Accessories. From there, click on Snipping Tool and a box will appear for you to click New. Then you can draw a box around what you want to save as a picture. To make this even easier each time, you can right click on Snipping Tool and then "Pin to Task Bar" or "Pin to Start Menu" so that is it always one click away.