Dr. Sabrina Weiss is one of the teachers leading the Teen and Tween Book Clubs for the 2020/2021 academic year. Get to know a little more about Dr. Weiss’ approach and philosophy for teaching.
We are media, and media is us. I have always loved stories as opportunities to learn, think, and explore ideas and problems within and beyond us. So I use stories as starting points for learning, with a focus on fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction. Many of these stories are based in actual histories, inspired by real cultures, and provoked by relevant problems and technologies.
My approach to writing essays blends traditional training with learner-centered growth; this converges towards the goal of helping learners to cultivate their own voice and platform. I emphasize the value of using standard formatting and organization to empower students in code-switching – using different approaches appropriate to a particular context – and magnifying the effectiveness of their voice across situations. As a former debate coach, I value effective framing, references and argumentation and encourage students to use these in their papers. Accessibility and forward-thinking are also important for me, so I will, after consultation with families and student, allow video or audio essays as ways to promote access for students who struggle with writing or who wish to develop skills with communications technology. Be aware: I will evaluate such essays on presentation in addition to content using my debate background!
Types of Assignments
To support this approach, I offer four general types of essays that may be done for my book clubs:
- Personal reflections promote metacognition like self-awareness and self-regulation, as well as emotional intelligence, recognizing implicit biases, and problem solving in real life.
- Diegetic analysis supports critical thinking by giving learners a chance to think “in-world” about something or taking the perspective of a person in that world.
- Creative synthesis is a chance for learners who like to do creative writing to tell a story.
- Fiction-reality comparison is a chance for learners to do a compare-contrast exercise using what they read in the book to apply it to their world.These four types can also include expository, analytical and/or persuasive components to give another layer of opportunity.
In terms of evaluation, I come from my experience as a professional and as a university instructor who emphasizes long-term goals like college preparation and professional development. Therefore, I will be open about what the bigger goals and purposes are for writing while providing specific guidance for a learner based on their current level. The more I know about a learner’s current abilities and goals (with family collaboration), then better I can identify a few goals to focus on for this project. I also believe in the value of iterative learning – as a lifelong perfectionist and procrastinator, I am keenly aware of how important it is to learn to brainstorm, plan, and revise writing. To this end, I will emphasize process over product unless there is a specific need to add to a portfolio (such as for college admissions).
I look forward to thinking with your learner!