What do you think is a good balance between traditional books, worksheets, pen and paper and technology in a middle school English class?

I teach 7, 8 and 9 grade English in a small rural school.  If I were to divide up the class/homework time, what percentage should students spend reading, completing grammar worksheets, writing paragraphs & essays and exploring/researching on the internet and working with English related technology?  Should it be an even 25% division?  When the computers are up and running, the students like to be on them. 

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I teach 9th grade in a small rural school.  My feeling is that worksheets should be used sparingly and with guilt across the board. They accomplish little other than wasting time.  I think technology is under-used in most English classrooms, but in the end it revolves around the texts. Do the targeted reading, using mini-lessons to review language and usage, and use the technology for formative assessment and enrichment. There are a lot of things that can be done a different way to incorporate technology, but it should never be just to do it, there should always be a distinct purpose behind tech use.


THe best advice I ever got was to sketch out the Bloom's Taxonomy List, and then brainstorm all of the activities I currently do for a class, and place them as appropriate.  Chances are (they were for me), that the top 2-3 are most lacking, and those are the ones most ripe for integration of technology.  Get them micro-blogging, creating websites, etc. to connect to content and you will never even think about worksheets again!  It gets to be a big leap, but it's worth it.




My concern is that English is not computer class.  If a student can create a beautiful blog or even web site, great.  But if there is improper grammar that interferes with the understanding on that page by others, the student has not learned English, learned to write it, or to communicate.  I still think there is very much a need for worksheets so students can truly see what is proper and what is expected for effective communication.  This spring when I saw a graduation program  with poor grammar and improper punctuation  created by the seniors, who was to blame?  The computer teacher or the English teacher?

Couple of things come to mind Cathy:

  1. Could the graduation program errors be a result of the students not applying their grammar knowledge when not dealing with a worksheet?
  2. When I worked as an insurance adjuster (years ago) I was expected to apply proper English skills without the aid of a worksheet.  I had to rely on the instruction and practice time I had been provided in school through general real-life writing assignments - not worksheets.
  3. I would never call a blog beautiful or a website great if it had improper grammar - I would consider it to be in the "beginning" stage of development - prettiness comes after the communication piece has been nailed down.      
Where does the practice time come from if not worksheet?  One of the better instructional techniques is to complete worksheets together?  If the students aren't following along, completing then checking, how are they to be exposed to the numerous and various grammar situations?  I have students write paragraphs.  When I see a student or students making an error repetitively, the worksheets come out.  Telling a middle school student what a dependent clause is and that it requires a comma if it starts a sentence will not suffice.  The student needs to practice it.  That is where a worksheet comes in.
Do you think in a class of 17 or more students with each writing essays that each student will put forth enough effort and enough written material so that a teacher can point out each necessary grammatical error that eventually the student will encounter?  Many kids do not have a dad or a mom who is so interested in their writing that they will read their work with them.  Sad to say, many parents will not know which words should be capitalized or not, or which words are coordinating conjunctions and require commas.  I try to have my students "play" grammar games on various sites weekly.  To me, those sites are worksheets.  The problem is I can't get my class in an open computer lab every week. A few students will think during those sites and apply what they've just done to their writing.  Other students will complete the online worksheet, receive automatic feedback, supposedly read the reasons behind the errors and then make the same errors in their next paragraph/essay.  For those students who are motivated to utilize the worksheets/sites, the sheets have done their job. Technology is not the enemy, but it is not the great savior either.



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