Example – Teaching Philosophy and Lesson Plans

Example – Teaching Philosophy and Lesson Plans

My approach to teaching is based off of my experience both as a student as well as a high school tutor. Many times, I have witnessed a classroom environment that is not sensitive to diverse learning styles or to individual student interests. Such a dull atmosphere can leave students disconnected with the material and demotivated to further pursue the subject.

Teaching – especially in Language Arts – should attempt to move past the mundane recitation of facts and even beyond the drilling of certain skills. As educators, we have an obligation to guide and mentor our students on an intellectual journey, broadening curious minds and exposing them to various worldviews and ideas. I strongly believe that teaching gives me the opportunity to shape students into self-aware and self-governing individuals who can work together to achieve goals. In order for students to be thus empowered, their learning environment should be comfortable, personal, and engaging. These ideas are at the core of my teaching philosophy and are my inspiration for curriculum planning.
I believe that lifelong learning occurs when students can personally connect to the material presented. Therefore, I strive to create such connections by offering a variety of engaging material that is both relatable as well as practical in the real world. After all, what is the point of education if it cannot be applied beyond the four walls of a classroom? All the while, I incorporate time for students to participate in hands-on activities, engage in student-driven class discussions, and interact with me personally on a one-on-one basis. As a result, my interactive, student-centered classroom produces a learning situation in which students feel comfortable with each other and confident in their own expression of ideas.

Lesson Plan #1

Topic: “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry

Length of lesson: One 90 minute (block schedule) class period.

Materials: Copies of “The Gift of the Magi” (full text with highlighted vocabulary words) for each student, Using Context Clues (handout)

• To derive the meaning of unfamiliar terms in a text through the use of context clues.
• To identify the use of situational irony in a short story.
• To develop proficiency in reading an early twentieth century text aloud.
• To practice discussion skills within a small group.
• To write a journal entry from the perspective of a character in a short story.

Context: The lesson will be taught at the end of a unit on short stories – specifically stories that include different types of irony. The preceding stories will include “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Alan Poe and “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, as the two stories respectively contain examples of verbal and situational irony. Not only does the latter story also deal with a young couple who face an ironic surprise, the story’s characters can be compared or contrasted with the characters in “The Gift of the Magi” in terms of their socioeconomic status, personalities, and worldviews. If possible, I would teach this lesson around Christmastime as the students are likely to be thinking about giving gifts to others.

Prior Knowledge: I assume that students have already acquired most reading comprehension skills necessary to read, interpret, and discuss an early twentieth century text. If I were to choose this text for grades 10-12, I would also assume that students have covered Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 9th grade and have at least familiarized themselves with the concept of irony. In addition, the students should already be comfortable with using context clues in order to understand words that are unfamiliar to them.

Lesson Timeline

Warm-up: As the student come in, they see a beautifully wrapped present on the desk at the front of the room. While the teacher is taking attendance, the students do a quick free-write on their ideas about the box they see.
(10 minutes)

Students come together for a mini-discussion about the ideas that evolved during the free-writing exercise.
(5 minutes)

Introduce the short story “The Gift of the Magi.” Handout copies of the story and the “Using Context Clues” handout to each student. Ask the students to look over the words and pay close attention to them as they come up in the story. Recommend that the students highlight or underline other words that are unfamiliar to them.
(5 minutes)

Popcorn Reading Activity: Students take turns reading “The Gift of the Magi” aloud. Pause as needed in order to clarify ambiguity, answer questions, or define words that are complex but not included in the handout.
(20 minutes)

Students share their initial thoughts about the story. Give students freedom to lead the discussion in the direction of their choosing. Possible questions to stimulate discussion: Why do you think the story is written from Della’s perspective? What kind of characters are Della and her husband Jim? Why does the narrator say, “Of all who give and receive gifts these two were the wisest”? Then steer the conversation on to a discussion about irony. Relate the story’s ironic twist back to the use of verbal irony in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and situational irony in “The Necklace.” The students should be able to identify the type of irony in “The Gift of the Magi” based off of the two preceding stories.
(15 minutes)

Group Vocab Activity: Have the students get into groups of 3-4. Working together, the students in each group will attempt to define the words on the Using Context Clues Handout.
(15 minutes)

Ask for volunteers from each group to offer their definition and explanation of how that definition was derived from the text. Each group should be responsible for sharing at least one word/definition with the class.
(10 minutes)

Assign homework: The story leaves the reader wondering what Della and Jim intend to do with their new gifts. Ask the students to take the perspective of either Della or Jim, and write a journal entry that describes the character’s feelings upon receiving his/her gift as well as a future plan of action. For example, if you were Jim, would you take the combs back and try to buy back your watch? Why, or why not? Answer any questions the students may have about the assignment.
(10 minutes)

• Student participation in the read-aloud activity as well as both the group and the class discussions.
• The group presentation of the vocabulary word they described to share with the class.
• The homework assignment.

This lesson plan is not set in stone and is not meant to be followed as such. Because I believe students should have the power to influence what goes on in the classroom, the lesson plan leaves room for the students to lead the discussion and gives the teacher only “back-up” questions in case the discussion stalls. Through engaging activities like “popcorn” reading and group work, this lesson will also allow the students to collaborate with each other in order to achieve the goal of learning. In addition, splitting the students into small groups allows all individuals an opportunity to share their ideas, even if some students are too shy to share their thoughts in front of the whole class. Such consideration for various personalities and learning styles is a significant part of my teaching philosophy. In addition, the post-group-work discussion also gives me a simpler way to assess my students’ knowledge through a student centered environment in which students are sharing what they have discovered aloud. Because I believe that building vocabulary is crucial to the development of a lasting curiosity about language, this lesson will also make sure the students interact with words before, during, and after the reading. Lastly, this lesson will encourage individual creativity as the students take on the role of a character by completing a short homework assignment.

Common Core Standards
RL 9-10: 2, 3, 4
RL 11-12: 6
W 9-10: 3a, 3d, 4, 10
L 9-10: 4a, 4d

Using Context Clues (handout)

• Imputation

• Subside

• Instigate

• Agile

• Depreciate

• Falter

• Ransack

• Meretricious

• Prudence

• Ravage

• Inconsequential

• Coveted

• Chronicle

Lesson Plan #2

Topic: Small Group Essay Workshop

Length of lesson: One 55 minute class period.

Materials: Individual student essays, “Workshop Guide” Handout (one per group), a bag of small candy bars.

• To develop interpersonal, listening, and communication skills within a small group setting.
• To apply constructive criticism skills to the written work of a peer.
• To practice self-evaluation of a rough draft and to consider revisions.

Context: This workshop will be conducted in the last quarter of the school year. Prior to the workshop day, the students will have had approximately 3 weeks to work on a persuasive essay answering the following prompt:
“Think about an issue or cause you feel is important. Write an essay in which you persuade your audience to do something about the issue/cause.
Your final draft should be about 500 words in length (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. font).”
On the day preceding the workshop, the class will participate in a lecture/discussion about conducting effective workshops. During the week following the workshop, the students will revise their rough draft and submit a final draft of their persuasive essays.

Prior Knowledge: I assume the students have participated in workshop activities before and with the help of the preceding lecture, will know how to offer constructive criticism to their classmates. I also assume that the students will be mature enough to behave appropriately and not waste time during the workshop. Lastly, the students should be familiar with the elements of persuasive writing.

Lesson Timeline

As the students come in and settle down, write the bullet points from the “Workshop guide” on the board. Briefly review the elements of an effective workshop from the discussion of the previous day. Pass around the bag of candy and ask students to grab one.
(10 minutes)

Students separate into small groups according to the type of candy they drew from the bag. (If the groups are uneven, the teacher can rearrange the number of students in each group.) Pass out “Workshop Guide” handout to each group.
(5 minutes)

Students pass out copies of their essays to members in the group. Spending about 10 minutes per essay, the group members read and discuss each other’s rough drafts using the handout to benchmark their discussion. Meanwhile the students who feel the need to talk to the teacher about their draft can take turns coming up to the front for a one-on-one conference with the teacher. If no students volunteer for a teacher conference or if a particular group is evidently off-task, the teacher can call on students to come up at random.
(35 minutes)

As the students finish their discussions, remind them that they need to submit a short one paragraph workshop reflection along with the final draft of their essay. If any students have completed their workshop early, they can start working on their reflections in class. Possible questions to consider for reflection: Was the workshop helpful/effective? Why or why not? Did you learn anything from reading the writing of others? Was there anything that did not work well in the workshop?
(5 minutes)

• Student participation in small group discussions and one-on-one conferences.
• Workshop reflections attached to final draft.
• Improvement in the quality of student writing (from rough draft to the final draft).

This lesson plan utilizes a hands-on workshop experience to help students develop interpersonal and communication skills. Not only do such activities give students a chance to apply what they have previously learned in class, the students will also be able to cultivate a sense of community with their peers. In order to give the groups a sense of direction and to prevent distractions, the students are given a guide they can use to balance out their comments about each paper. Instead of walking around and supervising – an act which puts unnecessary pressure on students who are trying to give meaningful advice – the teacher is left with a significant amount of time to hold at least a few conferences with struggling students. Thus, the students experience a balance of criticism from individuals with various levels of skill and experience. Lastly, the participation in a critical workshop will reinforce the idea that writing is a process – a process in which revision is indispensable.

Common Core Standards
W 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10
SL 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 6
L 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 2, 3, 6

Workshop Guide (handout)

• What were the paper’s strong points?

• What were the paper’s weaknesses? Offer constructive criticism!

• Does the paper include all the elements of persuasive writing? Is there anything missing?

• Is the main argument clear? Also, is the introduction effective?

• Were there any areas in the writing where the flow was broken? Why?

Lesson Plan #3

Topic: “Indiana” by John McLaughlin (song).

Length of lesson: One 55 minute class period.

Materials: Audio file of “Indiana” by John McLaughlin, a copy of the song lyrics for each student.

• To interpret the lyrics of a song.
• To practice writing under a time constraint.
• To prepare for a unit on poetry.

Context: This lesson will serve as an introduction to a poetry unit. Because there are no prior unit components that are necessary for this lesson plan, the lesson can be offered on the day immediately after the closure of any prior material. During the week subsequent to this lesson plan, the students will learn the basic schemes and tropes of poetry and will become familiar with several poems – specifically, poems by Robert Frost, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Emily Dickinson.

Prior Knowledge: I assume the students are familiar with the task of timed-writing and have either consciously or unintentionally analyzed the lyrics of various songs. Students should also have at least some experience with poetry from middle school.

Lesson Timeline

As students come in and take a seat, turn on a recording of Jon Mclaughlin’s song “Indiana”. When the song is over, pass out the lyrics to each student. Announce that the class has 25 minutes to analyze the lyrics of the song and to write out their own interpretation of the song’s meaning.
(10 minutes)

As the song plays one more time, the students complete the timed-writing assignment.
(25 minutes)

Come together for a class discussion in which students can share their interpretation of the song. Possible questions to stimulate discussion: What mood does the song attempt to create? What is the songwriter’s tone? Can there be more than one meaning to the lyrics? Does the song have a resolution? Collect the writing assignment.
(10 minutes)

Introduce the unit: Poetry. Ask students to think about how a song’s lyrics can function as a poem. Assign homework assignment: For the next class, find a song that you think utilizes more than one poetic scheme/trope and bring it to the next class. If students do not know any schemes/tropes, remind them that the Internet and their peers are available for help. List some common stylistic features (i.e. metaphor, simile, irony, personification, etc.).
(10 minutes)

• The students’ written interpretation of the song.
• The students’ participation in the class discussion.
• The homework assignment for the next day.

This lesson plan ensures that the students will be immediately engaged as soon as they walk into the room. Because listening to music in class is so unexpected, the students will be more likely to think the assignment does not resemble “boring” schoolwork; thus, they will be actually motivated to write. In addition, the timed-writing exercise will also inspire spontaneous creativity, as the students will not have time to revise and meticulously edit their work while they are writing. The low-stakes writing exercise is meant to serve as extra practice and will only be graded for completion. The assignment also gives students an opportunity to dive into the worldview of another person (the songwriter), expand their knowledge about the world outside of the classroom, and perhaps feel a personal connection to the songwriter or his ideas. All the while, the students will begin to think about the value of poetry as an outlet for expression. As I have stated in my teaching philosophy, engagement, motivation, and personal connection make education more effective and are all worthy goals to pursue in the Language Arts classroom.

Common Core Standards
RL 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 2, 6, 10.
W 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 2, 4, 9, 10.
SL 9-10 and 11-12 : 1, 6.
L 9-10 and 11-12 : 5a, 6.


I’m glad I never lived next to the water
So I could never get used to the beach
And I’m glad I never grew up on a mountain
To figure out how high the world could reach
I love the miles between me and the city
Where I quietly imagine every street
And I’m glad I’m only picturing the moment
I’m glad she never fell in love with me

For some the world’s a treasure to discover
And your scenery should never stay the same
And they’re trading in their dreams for Explanations
All in an attempt to entertain
But I love the miles between me and the city
Where I quietly imagine every street
And I’m glad I’m only picturing the moment

I’m glad she never fell in love with me

The trick of love is to never let it find you
It’s easy to get over missing out
I know the how’s and whens, but now and then,
She’s all I think about

I wonder how it feels to be famous
But wonder is as far as I will go
Because I’d probably lose myself in all the Pictures
And end up being someone I don’t know.
So it’s probably best I stay in Indiana
Just dreaming of the world as it should be
Where every day is a battle to convince myself
I’m glad she never fell in love with me.