Hi, I'm Erin, and I teach English. This portfolio chronicles my educational accomplishments. You can e-mail me at ekkross@gmail.com.

Human Development and Learning

Developmental Needs Portfolio

Assess students' emotional lives

Goals: My goals for this activity are to gain a greater understanding of my students' personal lives, to give my students an opportunity to reflect on their own feelings, specifically about friendship and acceptance, and to help my students understand and accept their seemingly contradictory and developing emotions. I will assess students' emotional lives and the achievement of my goals mostly through observation and by reading my students' journals. I will encourage them to think about conflicting feelings in the book as well as in their own lives, and by reading their responses to the questions I pose in the journal instructions, I will be able to assess their emotional state to some degree. This will also help me gather greater insight into each of my students' emotional maturity and needs.

Description: At the beginning of a unit during which students will be reading Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, I will assign a journal to be written in while the students read the novel and turned in upon its completion. Students will use these journals as a place in which they can explore their own feelings and emotions while reading the class novel. I will give them the following instructions about this assignment: You will be writing in a journal while we read the novel, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick. As you read the book, I want you to make connections to your own life. How are your friendships similar to or different from Max and Freak's? Have you ever accepted someone who seemed very different from you? Has someone very different from you ever shown you acceptance? Please write personal responses to the book in this journal. Feel free to talk about how you felt about your day, or what you feel when you read certain parts of the book, or about how you feel about some events going on in your life outside of school. Often people have emotions that seem to contradict each other, like love and fear, or pain and relief. I encourage you to explore this supposed "contradiction." This is a chance for you to be honest with yourself about your emotions and try to understand them through writing.

Assess the nature of peer relationships in my class/facilitate the development of healthy peer relationships

Goals: My goals for this activity are to gain a better understanding of the peer group dynamics at work in my classroom and in my students' lives, to have my students reflect on their peer relationships, and to give students a chance to use their creative skills to communicate their thoughts experiences with their peers, to show students examples of high quality friendships (like the one between the main characters Max and Freak in Freak the Mighty), and to help guide them towards more accepting friendships. This activity will help me see and understand the transformations my students are experiencing as their peer groups change into more autonomous, opposite-sex inclusive groups during their adolescence.

Description: To assess my students' lives with their peers, I will have them write stories, essays, poetry, songs, create short films, or give a speech about incidents in their life during which they encountered an act of friendship and/or acceptance to connect with the two central themes of the class novel. I will give the students the following assignment instructions: To finish up our unit about Freak the Mighty, you will be completing a project about your own experiences with friendship and/or acceptance; the two major themes in our novel. You can write short stories, essays, poetry, songs, write and create a short film, or write and deliver a speech about times in your own life when you encountered an act of friendship and/or acceptance (if you have some other format in mind that you would like to try and use for this project, make sure you have it approved by me first). These acts can be your own, or the actions of someone else.

Assess the level of student engagement in learning materials

Goals: My goals for this activity are to see how my students related to the novel, Freak the Mighty, as a whole, to see which parts of the novel impacted or meant the most to my students, and to allow my students to use their creativity to show the connections they made to the text. This activity will also help me to cater to the different learning styles and intelligences in my classroom because it will allow students to relate written words to visual representations.

Description: The students will participate in an in-class art project during which they will make their own versions of the cover of the novel depicting their favorite part or a scene they feel is important in the book. I will give them the following instructions after we complete the novel: Today you will be using your art skills! I would like you to recreate the cover of the book, Freak the Mighty, so that it shows your favorite scene, or a scene you thought was very important. You can draw or use pictures cut out of magazines to make your new cover.

Assess whether students are being challenged by the material I present to them

Goals: My goals for this activity are to help the growth and maintenance of their linguistic and vocabulary abilities, to ensure that the developing temporal lobes (which are linked to language) are used enough to strengthen that part of the brain, and to give the students more verbal and written tools to use in their writing and speaking. I will be able to assess how challenging the material is based on how difficult the students find the reading to be because of the vocabulary used. Additionally, this gives my students a chance to determine for themselves what they find to be challenging, which will ensure that the vocabulary lists chosen will be appropriately demanding for each student and will therefore meet their individual linguistic needs.

Description: To assess how challenging the material is to my students, I will have them create lists of vocabulary words from Freak the Mighty that they found personally challenging in terms of how to spell, pronounce, and/or define the words they choose. They will practice spelling, defining, and using these words in a sentence by incorporating their chosen words into their writing assignments, as well as by completing vocabulary worksheets that will enforce the spelling and definitions of their chosen words. This activity will involve daily vocabulary practice and a cumulative vocabulary test at the end of the Freak the Mighty unit.

Facilitate a discussion of race or ethnicity

Goals: I would like my fifth activity that seems to be about diversity to reflect more forms of diversity than just race and ethnic backgrounds. I believe the novel I have chosen to use for these activities represents diversity in socio-economic status, academic ability, and even physical abilities. Thus, I would like my students to discuss the implications of all of these kinds of diversity as well as race and ethnicity, both in the novel and in their own lives. By discussing all of these different forms of diversity, I will be able to validate the issues that face people who come from more than just different ethnic backgrounds, but also a range of socio-economic statuses and ability levels. This kind of validation will also help adolescents during the process of developing their identities (ethnic, gender, sexual, class, etc.) because it opens up a dialogue about very real concerns that affect all students. Additionally, by showing students who feel that they do not have any diversity in their personal lives that they, in fact, do, I will be able to confirm their experiences as individuals who are worth listening to because they have something important to contribute.

Directions: I will start out a classroom discussion by bringing up and identifying the various kinds of diversity found in the novel, Freak the Mighty, and then encourage students to continue the dialogue using their own experiences with diversity. I will have students call on each other when they are done talking to make sure that this activity is very student-centered, but will intervene with questions if I feel that the conversation has grown stagnant or is headed in a direction that might be inappropriately offensive for the classroom environment. My intention behind placing myself in a position which allows me to intervene like this is to ensure that my students do not feel too uncomfortable, and to make sure that they do not make statements that cause offense because of the sensitive topic at hand.

Human Development and Learning Rationale