student writing
Teaching Within and Beyond the Mandated Curriculum
in a Fifth Grade Language Arts Classroom

Amelia Colemen , Henry C. Lea Elementary School
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work



Video Archive


Into and Through the Curriculum Preparing for Assessments Connecting Literuature to Lives

Teaching Practice (excerpted from an interview)

Because the class is so large structure was very important.  In the beginning of the school year I had my classroom arranged so that students has as much space as possible, which was hard given the numbers.  But towards the end I remember bringing them closer together and closer to me.  I never use my desk, so that becomes like a filing cabinet completely.  I try to make myself in the center to bring the energy and attention of the kids to the center of the class.  We generally start lessons out with a “grand conversation” because the kids love to talk and then we proceed from there with the kind of work you see on this site.

What is important here in the classroom for me is content.  I had to structure things in a very tight way for learning to really take place.  In the beginning of the year it took being really explicit, talking about expectations and respect and working on their abilities.  We talked about the fact that this classroom is tight, that there are a lot of us and that makes work challenging.  We talked a lot about expectations for behavior and for what we wanted to accomplish.  So really being explicit in building the classroom community around structure was an emphasis.  The overarching goal is working under  the expectation of respect – respect in ourselves, in our space, in our learning time no matter what else happens outside of the classroom.

The School District of Philadelphia does have a mandated language arts curriculum, but there is room to supplement.  I don’t follow a lockstep program.  I take from different places.  In the beginning of the year I sit down and look at what has to be accomplished according to the various frameworks and standards.  Then I look at what I can do to meet those goals in ways that will reach the students, in ways that will help them connect to the work.  It’s important to me that they learn how to apply their knowledge to different situations in the world, not just be able to answer questions on the PSSA (state assessment).  So I try to teach in a way that brings them into the lesson and allows them to make connections to their lives.


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Site last updated April 18, 2006