Teacher Feature: Beth Kara

Originally from Kentucky, Beth Kara has been teaching 8th grade Humanities at E. L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington, DC for two years. Before that, she taught for five years in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Mrs. Kara is the advisor for the film club at E. L. Haynes, which meets twice per week to watch and discuss classic and contemporary films. Her favorite part of leading the club, she says, is “the opportunity to learn from the kids. The students bring such unique perspectives to our discussions.”

This is Mrs. Kara’s first year using the One World Education curriculum. Only a few weeks into the program, it’s already proving to be a useful scaffold for her students. For example, the curriculum has helped her students develop confidence in their ability to complete a writing assignment. “So many students would say, ‘I can’t write a five paragraph essay,’ but because we’re starting small and doing it in chunks, they are able to build those skills. Afterwards, they can look back and say, ‘Wow, I did this. I’m really proud of it,’” she said. Further, “Students know what is expected, and they can work at their own pace.”

Mrs. Kara has found OWEd to be a solid framework for argumentative writing instruction. Last year, during a similar instructional unit, she found it especially challenging to source articles of appropriate length and reading level. OWEd provides suitable materials and resources, while still giving her the freedom to modify lessons to meet her students’ needs. Mrs. Kara noted, “By using the scaffolding and introducing topics the kids are interested in, I find it easier to get them engaged in writing.” She hopes this will propel her students to have more confidence in their writing abilities going forward.

Incorporating technology into lesson plans is important to Mrs. Kara. Last week, she created a blended learning opportunity for her students. She shared how it went:

“I recorded the articles and posted them on a podcasting website called Podomatic. Using headphone splitters, students were able to listen to articles in small groups. They listened once, following along in their Student Writer’s Notebooks, and then listened again. This time groups were instructed to stop every two to three paragraphs to identify the main ideas of each article. 

Students seemed really motivated to read and discuss these topics. There was also significant collaboration within the groups. I didn't see a single student dictating to their peers; I heard group members discussing the texts! Adding the podcast element was really interesting, and instead of isolating students, the headphones seemed to draw them together.”

The peer-to-peer learning aspect has also been important to her students. Seeing photos and videos of previous Washington, D.C. Student Ambassadors clearly motivated students. She hopes one of her students’ reflections will be next year’s exemplar essay!

Mrs. Kara – and we – look forward to reading their completed essays and seeing how much they’ve learned.

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