Continuous Learning: Travis Gatewood’s English Language Arts Classes at Shawnee Mission South

Continuous Learning: Travis Gatewood’s English Language Arts Classes at Shawnee Mission South
Shawnee Mission School District

What do English Language Arts classes look like as the Shawnee Mission School District engages in Continuous Learning? We checked in with Travis Gatewood, English Language Arts teacher and some of his students at Shawnee Mission South.

Classroom Connection Continued
Since Spring Break, one of the highlights for Travis Gatewood’s students has been meeting online to share their work. Sometimes the connection is found through video chat, where students can talk to Gatewood for troubleshooting and assistance. Sometimes his students connect through writing on a shared document launched by Gatewood like “The Coronavirus Diaries,” a space online for students to write about their experience over the last few weeks.  

Maria Heath, junior, said she’s appreciated the opportunity to share her thoughts and writing through the “Coronavirus Diaries.”

“Students, including myself, have provided very raw, honest thoughts,” she said. “It is comforting to know I am not alone in how I feel about all of the lost opportunities.”

The continued connection with teachers has been one of the most appreciated parts of Continuous Learning, junior Chase Horner said. Throughout this time, Gatewood has read through his essays and offered advice to improve.

“When there are choices for learning every day and an insightful proofread just an email away, it makes it a lot more bearable,” Horner said.

Weekly Setlists and Support 
To help keep everyone’s skills sharp, Gatewood has been providing weekly setlists that include daily English Language Arts “workouts.” These training exercises, such as journal free-writes, literary analysis through poetry, or an academic essay prompt, are designed to help students strengthen and build upon their core skills.

Gatewood completes the assignments along with his students.

“I share perspectives, connections, and tips with my students online,” he said. “I’m trying to model the same daily practice in which students should  be engaging.”

He also has been providing AP students with notes, resources, feedback, and advice to prepare them for exams.

Tradition Re-worked
Gatewood also worked this spring to find a way to continue a 20-year classroom tradition. As part of his “This I Believe” tradition, students are asked to share a belief in the form of a speech with the class.

“It can be serious or silly, big or little, philosophical or practical,” Gatewood explained. “We’ve had laughter and tears and legendary moments. Students look forward to it so I wanted to provide an avenue for them to share their beliefs in distance learning.”

This year, Gatewood planned to invite his students to share “This I Believe” through videos.

“Probably more than ever, it will be interesting and important to hear what students believe and feel during this strange, unprecedented time,” he said.