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The teacher understands and uses a variety of instructional strategies to encourage learners to develop deep understanding of content areas and their connections, and to build skills to apply knowledge in meaningful ways.

Student-Teaching During the COVID-19 Pandemic: 
Instructional Strategies and Adaptation for A Thousand Splendid Suns

We began A Thousand Splendid Suns in the classroom at Sacred Heart in early March. We have since transitioned to asynchronous online learning, and then to synchronous online learning due to the closure of Pennsylvania schools. 

Asynchronous Learning

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Above: Students submit entries on FlipGrid instead of their typical journal responses. 

During the asynchronous online learning period, as a school and as an instructor, we underwent a period of learning. Initially, the large amount of work, lack of differentiation in assessment, and lack of social interaction left students overwhelmed, unmotivated, and disconnected from their classmates and their teachers. I mention this here because what I learned does not work from the asynchronous learning period heavily influenced what I did in our time during synchronous learning. 

The following lesson outlines what I constructed with my cooperating teacher in order to facilitate online distance learning. 


Access full lesson plan here.

Synchronous Learning

This group of students does best when engaging with one another in small groups. Their analysis of the text is always sophisticated, and the groups give them time to bounce ideas off of one another. Alongside Mrs. Schuster, I decided that replicating this experience the best we could in class would be the best course of action. 

Mrs. Schuster and I came up with the groups based on what students emailed in (Who were they most comfortable working with?) and our understanding of their work (Who do we think would challenge one another? Who do we think would make good group leaders?). 

For this class, working in groups helped students share ideas surrounding traditional motifs in literature and their role in A Thousand Splendid Suns. Reviewing motifs before completing the book allows students to reflect on the role of the motifs throughout the novel, notice them out independently in the remainder of the novel, and enter college with a framework of traditional associations with different images in literature. We had done the exercise for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress in February (See Learner Development), so students were already familiar with the procedure. However, unlike the lesson with Balzac, I went through the novel and found instances of the motifs, rather than having students find the images themselves. I did this because of our limited time frame and because of the length of the novel. 

Every week, we shifted to only assigning one writing assignment outside of class. After the overload of assignments outside of class during asynchronous learning, we learned that we receive the most quality work when there is only one assignment. Because they were doing an AP practice essay on Wednesday, we only did an in-class discussion on Monday without supplemental writing. 

The nature of the online classes poses additional problems. There is not enough time during our Zoom meetings to go as in-depth we would in person. Typically, in the classroom, students from other groups add after they’ve shared out, contributing their own analysis. However, after weighing my options—making larger groups and going over less content or only having whole-class-discussion—continuing the way we are seems like the best option. 


Access full PDF here.

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