Overview of Travis Bristol
Travis is in his second year of teaching ninth and tenth grade English at an early college high school that opened in 2003. As an early college high school, the school seeks to have students acquire 30 college credits (through courses at the school and elsewhere) by the time they graduate.In general, the students "read at or slightly below grade level," and therefore the school is exempt from the mandated curriculum in the district.
In addition to preparing students to take the English Regents exam at the end of their 11 th grade year, Travis wants to use literature to help his students become critical thinkers.   The Shakespeare unit, in particular, reflects the variety of goals he tries to keep in mind at any one time, thus it includes work on grammar, essay writing, the analysis of texts, and what he calls "life skills" like getting students comfortable speaking in front of groups. He also has some very practical goals like just getting students "up and moving because so much of high school is just sitting down talking and being spoken to."

The class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 90 minutes, including grammar lessons on Mondays and journal writing every Wednesday. The unit begins with an introduction to Shakespeare, a focus on the analysis and discussion of a scene almost every day, includes an emphasis on getting students to translate passages into their own vernacular and to make connections to related issues in their own lives like inter-racial dating, and culminates with a final essay and group performances.

This site includes videotape of several days during the unit, including the culminating performances, reflective interviews with Travis at several points, and a collection of some of the curriculum materials and student work produced during the unit. Ideally, the site will give viewers opportunities to see and hear what Travis tries to accomplish with his students, how he structures activities and discussions, and what his students do. In particular, it highlights concerns like how to engage all students in substantive group discussions, how to both support and challenge students demonstrating different levels of performance, how to get them to look beyond literal meanings, and how he can take advantage of naturally occurring learning opportunities and still keep moving ahead to cover the curriculum. At the same time, it also illustrates the challenges of trying to keep many goals in mind and deal with the normal (and abnormal) challenges of schooling in the 21 st Century (like the New York City transit strike that takes place in the middle of the unit).
In conjunction with another website that documents a poetry discussion at the end of March, the site also provides a glimpse of Travis' efforts to improve the ways he engages and supports his students in group discussions and how he builds on the work in his teacher education program where he and his colleagues watched and learned how a 30-year veteran teacher, Yvonne Hutchinson, carried out group discussions in her classroom in Los Angeles.