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Developing a Supportive Teaching Approach

Discussions with other teachers who had previously taught self-contained classes helped me realize how important structure and organization are for students with lives that are anything but. I read journal articles about becoming a warm demander, effective praise, and creating reasonable expectations for students. I read an article about teachers who use books that students like. By letting students choose topics they like teachers can find it easier to engage students in reading. I also had discussions with the school psychologist and social worker to see what kind of lessons would assist students with coping skills and self-monitoring their behavior. I was advised to incorporate role playing and journaling to address conflict resolution and building self-esteem.  As I considered how to incorporate these into my practice I became concerned about when I would find time to teach ELA if I had to simultaneously be a social worker and a therapist for my students.  
I had to find texts that could double as self-esteem builders. I thought about modern coming-of-age novels that my students could relate to and how our identity shapes our thoughts and influences our decisions and place in society. I discovered texts such as, “A Lower East Side Poem,” The Perks of Being a Wallflower, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Hunger Games, that I could teach that would help me effectively teach my students while building their self-esteem. 
I also thought that having students hold discussions among themselves would give them a space in the classroom and show them that I had an interest in them as people. It was also school work that didn’t require them to read and then process--after all, talking is something they already knew how to do and do well.
With this understanding I decided I would work with them on:
  • writing personal narrative poems
  • reading/analyzing song lyrics and poetry
  • exploring the topic identity in the text
  • essential vocabulary
  • literary elements
  • listening comprehension
  • note taking
  • journaling
With this in mind I developed the following Reading and Writing Units:
  1. Identity and our past, present, and future
  2. Survival and oppression
  3. Mental Illness
  4. Abuse