Samohi English Department
June 13, 2023
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As we have completed the 22-23 school year, it is once again time for an update from the SAMOHI English Department.
We have had an exciting year of growth and progress, working together to grow our skills, refine our approaches, and strengthen our vision for English instruction at Santa Monica High School.
Thanks to the support of our District leadership, all of our English teachers had two full professional development days this semester to continue our collaborations and build on our best practices.
In February, we met to dive deeper into the question of how best to differentiate reading instruction for 9th and 10th grade students. Recognizing the need to meet students where they are, while also challenging and supporting their forays into great literature, we “unpacked” strategies and developed three-prong lesson plans for exploring renowned texts such as Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night, James Baldwin’s short story “Sonny’s Blues”, and Emily Dickinson’s poem “Much Madness is Divinest Sense.” We left inspired by each other’s passion for great literature and with tools in hand to help share that enthusiasm with our students.
Most recently, in the first week of May, we met for our final full-day professional learning session where we shared materials for our exciting new commitment to implementing student digital portfolios in all of our classes. For the 23-24 school year, all students will have a digital English portfolio which they will keep and maintain throughout their time at SAMOHI to showcase the writing and projects that demonstrate their growth and accomplishments as writers and readers.
Our use of digital portfolios across all years and classrooms will enable students to reflect on their growth over time while they practice digital literacy skills. We also believe that our common commitment to digital portfolios will help improve transparency and communication about the work students are doing in their English classes, and will support important conversations between students and their teachers, families, and advocates. Furthermore, digital portfolios will allow teachers to more effectively identify students’ strengths and areas for growth early in the school year, and thus facilitate our efforts to effectively differentiate our instruction.
We also had the opportunity to share with school board members and district leaders anecdotes about our experiences this year teaching in our fully inclusive, integrated 9th and 10th grade classes. Many teachers had a chance to provide insights about the way that smaller class sizes (25 or fewer) have enabled us to more effectively personalize our instruction, build relationships, and give better, more comprehensive feedback to students in class and in response to their writing and other work. We are thrilled that our school and district leaders remain supportive of our work and efforts.
As we come to the close of this school year, we look forward to being able to provide new opportunities for our English students. We continue to press forward with plans to pilot a reading intervention program next year to support those students who may need more intensive, targeted instruction to move them towards grade level reading skills. Also, thanks to the effort of some teachers who have been working for the past months to develop new courses, we are excited to be offering two new English electives for 12th graders for the 23-24 school year: Feminist Literature and Graphic Novels and Literature.
We are, as always, grateful for our amazing students who motivate and inspire us daily, and also to you, for your ongoing support. We look forward to being in touch with you again in the fall.
And to the parents and guardians of graduating seniors, congratulations on your journey and our very best to you and your family as your graduates begin to write the next exciting chapters of their own stories.
If you have any questions about what your young person is doing or learning in these final weeks of the year, please don’t hesitate to reach out to their teacher via email or phone call.
The Samohi English Department