Engaging her students is the goal of Crossroads Academy teacher Terri Washer.
Terri Washer, a teacher at Crossroads Academy, has just returned from a summit in Orlando, Fla., where she learned some new teaching techniques.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The nine-year teaching veteran at Columbia County's alternative school attended a regional teacher workshop sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education in July to learn, among other things, ways to help her students think rather than simply memorize.
"In education, we want to use the higher-order thinking skills, because students tend to retain it when they have to apply it, analyze it, and synthesize it," the 54-year-old high-school English teacher said.
At the Orlando, Fla., based conference, Washer said she and 200 other teachers learned and discussed the latest effective practices and research-based methods to raise student achievement.
One of the thinking methods she already applies is having her students rewrite passages from William Shakespeare plays and share their thoughts with other students through the Internet.
Students read a Shakespeare monologue, rewrite it into modern language, and then explain why they interpreted the passage the way they did.
"They have to be able to substantiate what they're saying rather than just spitting it back," Washer said. "They're having to think rather than just memorize."
The conference didn't focus on troubled youth like those who attend Crossroads, Washer said.
"I think the way the government is looking at education today is that all students are at risk," she said.
In fact, smaller class sizes at Crossroads Academy, which started the new school year with fewer than 40 high school-age students, allow Washer to implement a teaching methodology that requires a strong thought process.
"So many students that we have fall into the cracks," she said.
"Because of choices they made, they have not been in school and chose to not listen. Being able to actively engage them in the learning process rather than have them be passive learners is probably one the most important things that was reiterated over and over at the workshop."
For other teachers looking for engaging lesson plans, Washer recommends the federal DOE-approved web site www.thegateway.org.
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