March 2021: Inside the Classroom

March 2021: Inside the Classroom

In the virtual classroom, it’s difficult for parents to keep up with what’s going on inside the classroom. Countless questions emerge: Is my child making progress? What conversations happen during the class time? Is my child really making any progress?

To give insight into what goes on during the MEK Learning Circles (MLC) class time, we interviewed MLC English teacher Lauren Farfan. Lauren is a dedicated and compassionate MLC English teacher, and our students love to be in her class!

Q: Hi Lauren! To start off, what MLC classes do you currently teach?

Hi! I currently teach the 4th and 5th grade Writing Circles and 6th and 8th grade Critical Reading Circles.

Q: How would you say the Critical Reading and Writing Circles differ?

Well the two classes are structured completely differently.

The Writing Circles have a two-session cycle: Brainstorming Day and Revision Day. So students write one essay over the course of two class sessions. On Brainstorming Day, we work both together and independently to brainstorm essays based on a prompt and start writing the first draft. On Revision Day, we revise our essays using lesson objectives. Each session, I teach a grammar lesson and a new writing topic.

The Critical Reading Circles, on the other hand, are structured so that students start and finish their essays in one day. Instead of a prompt, I give them a literary text that we analyze and discuss together and start brainstorming a literary essay. During the same class session, we revise and edit the first drafts, and students complete their essays for homework.

The Critical Reading Circles are more fast-paced, so students generally have to have a good understanding of how to write an essay independently in order to do well in the class.

Q: How do you start your classes?

At the start of every class, I like to ask my students about their weeks and any updates they have to share with the class. By having these conversations, I set a positive tone for the lesson and create a fun and engaging dynamic with my students. 

I also share what we will be covering that day at the start of class to keep my students up to date with our curriculum and aware of any announcements. Then, we get straight into our lesson and practice exercises.

Q: What about participation? How do you make sure that students are engaged in the lesson?

I have my students participate in a myriad of ways. For some responses, I will ask students to send me a Zoom chat, or sometimes I will ask for a volunteer. Depending on the class, my participation methods vary since I want all my students to feel comfortable. But I make sure that every single student participates in every single class session.

Q: You mentioned homework earlier. Can you talk more about the homework that you assign?

During the last portion of class, I leave enough time to go over what is assigned for homework. I do this because I like to make sure that students leave class with their assignment as the most recent topic we discussed, as I’ve noticed this helps them retain the directions. I also answer any questions that my students may have regarding the homework and even do a sample/demo of the assignment to help inspire them for their own work.

The homework usually involves continuing or finishing the classwork and preparing for the next lesson. For the Writing Circles, students submit the first draft of their essays after Brainstorming Day and the final draft after Revision Day. For the Critical Reading Circles, students submit the final draft of their literary essays and complete the reading assignment for the next literary text that they will analyze.

Q: How do you make sure that every student is making progress?

When grading homework, I track progress by reviewing students’ individual grade books and seeing how they improve. I specifically check to see if they are making the changes I point out on the rubric/grade sheet of past assignments. In class, I also reserve about 3-5 minutes for students to review their most recent grades and feedback on essays with me. I find that when we review the grades and feedback together, students not only know where to find the information, but also understand why they received what they received.

This feedback is crucial to student progress, so I make sure to spend extra time giving feedback and explaining it as well!

Get in on the Success!

We are opening new classes for the Summer semester! Take the first step to registration by signing up for our CCSS Student Evaluation Test Event for students.

Contact us to stay up-to-date on our course openings and promotions! That way, you will be the first to know when we roll out our Summer promotions.

I hope to see you soon!

Lauren Farfan

Lauren is a dedicated MLC English teacher. She brings a level of warmth and compassion to each class to make sure that each student is included and engaged in the class. She helps each student become a skilled writer, reader, and speaker.

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