- High School
My Bridge to College course began with the “Juvenile Justice” module as discussed in my September blog. Over the last two months we also completed the module “Bullying” and are in the middle of the “Racial Profiling” module. Second semester will bring with it “The New Space Race,” 1984, and Into the Wild.
The "Bullying" and "Racial Profiling" modules are just two more reasons why Bridge to College is being implemented in 138 high schools by 247 teachers. These two modules show the broad forms of communication and writing skills students learn over the course of the program.
This is the first time I chose to put the “Bullying” module in my coursework. The timing worked really well as our school is implementing the Character Strong program with teachers leading lessons each Friday during our 20 minute RTI period. Because of this students saw it as a relevant topic for discussion.
This unit includes multiple articles that define bullying and explains its many forms. Throughout all the readings, students continued using pre-reading, reading and post-reading tools so that using the strategies becomes a habit. From there students used research skills practiced in the previous module--and modules completed in the junior year--to access academic, peer-reviewed articles on bullying. After the time spent researching, I divided students into groups that would bring out the best in them, which is to say, they could not partner with their friends. In the Bridge to College curriculum, not many modules have a group project as an end assessment, so students were both happy and wary of being in a group for a writing project. They wanted to work with peers, but were not sure how that would impact writing.
Once in groups, I assigned students the writing project, a guide to understanding, preventing and dealing with bullying. The audience was freshmen or new students to our high school, so seniors needed to adjust their message, tone and purpose throughout the project. This could not be about bullying in general, but needed to address the bullying of their classmates in their hallways. Finally, students presented the information or created an anti-bullying PSA.
Since this was my first time with the unit, I walked away with a lot to learn for next year.
- The topic was interesting and they came to a better understanding of what bullying is and isn’t, but maybe it was too late in their high school careers to have the inspiring "ah-ha" moment I wanted for impacting school culture. I need to work on that.
- The final writing products--this year--are not yet useable for their intended purpose: educating freshmen. Essentially, I gave them too much independence during the writing process.
- I had them create their own evidence by doing surveys and interviews, but would structure that with more concrete lessons on how to approach survey creation and using conversations as evidence.
- Students were motivated to complete the module because of filming the PSA at the end, but the final products were not viewable by their peers as an actual education tool. On the other hand, those who chose the presentation showed there is a real need for a public speaking unit (which I am going to add to the end of Racial Profiling).
This module is an important one in terms of skill building and independent researched writing, but the title makes it seem a little more content driven than it is. Students begin with a few activities to build background knowledge on Jim Crow laws and racial profiling in America. Then through a series of pre-reading and reading activities, students read a 2010 article titled “Jim Crow Policing” by Bob Herbert from the New York Times.
Once we are done analyzing the style of the article, students will spend a majority of the unit writing their own research essay on a topic of their choice. This final project aims to lead them to writing independence prior to starting the novel based units next semester. By choosing their own topic and finding their own evidence, students are writing an essay that is a culmination of all the skills practiced during the modules completed thus far.
After the paper is complete, they will each present their topic to the class in a five to ten minute presentation--this part I added. I plan to take them through the process of creating an effective PowerPoint or other visual so that they never read from slides again. Or at least that is the goal.
A few takeaways after teaching this unit four times:
- As far as content, there are newer articles that address the issues central to the article, but this article has a good structure for analyzing rhetorical strategies and discussing author’s voice and style.
- The content is really important, but I have to stay focused on the end goal rather than the topic of the main reading.
- Of the modules I have taught, I think this is the best unit to include a speaking component because of the self-chosen topic, which should lead to engaging presentations.
If you or your school is interested in implementing Bridge to College here are some resources to get you started!
Websites for the details:
Blogs for learning more from the teacher perspective:
Blogs from the pilot of Bridge to College by Nathan Sun-Kleinberger
- Teacher Leadership