OAKTON HIGH SCHOOL – FAIFAX VIRGINIA
GMU- TEA PROGRAM
MENTOR BETH BLANKENSHIP
(11 GRADE AP LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION)
CAROLINA BARRERA VALENZUELA
OAKTON HIGH SCHOOL
During my Internship I had the pleasure of attending OAKTON HIGH SCHOOL,
and I’ll start off by just posting a little school summary taken from Oakton High’s
web page: http://commweb.fcps.edu/schoolprofile/profile.cfm?profile_id=050
Oakton High School, located in Vienna, near Interstate 66, serves an area of Fairfax County that extends
from the City of Fairfax to the Town of Herndon. Oakton uses state-of-the-art technology with numerous
in-school and mobile computer labs for instructional use. Staff members make extensive use of web-
based communication tools such as Blackboard, and every classroom is equipped to allow teachers to
teach using advanced technology. Oakton operates on a block schedule and offers a wide variety of
courses, including opportunities to take some classes off-site. The school offers a number of
interdisciplinary programs that encourage students to identify and emphasize the relationships between
the various subject areas. Oakton offers an AP Diploma program and a wide variety of elective classes
including philosophy, architectural engineering, video production, desktop publishing, accounting, and six
different foreign languages. Classes and programs are tailored to meet the specific educational needs
and interests of all students.
Beyond its strong academic program, Oakton recognizes the importance of extracurricular and
cocurricular programs to foster the growth of its students. Accordingly, Oakton offers a long and varied
menu of options for students. The Performing Arts Department made up of band, chorus, and theatre arts
consistently earns distinction as one of the premier performing arts program in the area. The Publications
Department produces a newspaper, The Outlook; a yearbook, Paragon; and a literary magazine, Opus;
which have consistently earned recognition for excellence. Oakton’s athletic program is highly competitive
and enjoys a reputation for athletic distinction and outstanding sportsmanship.
The goal at Oakton High School is to produce outstanding citizens by promoting a balance between
academics and extracurricular activities. Therefore, the importance of a joint effort is recognized by
parents, community members, faculty, and staff in the effort to achieve a common goal. The strength of
the Academic Boosters, the Athletic Boosters and the Band Boosters attests to the broad support
available from the parent community.
THE TRIPS TO OAKTON
Every Wednesday and Friday all the TEA team would all get up very early at about 5:30 a.m. go have
breakfast and wait in the lobby of the Fairfax Country Inn Hotel for our taxi to arrive and take us to our
assigned schools. Some people were assigned Middle Schools and others High Schools. I had the
pleasure of being assigned to attend to Oakton High School. In the adventure two Cambodians Polette
and Phanette, and Andrea from Argentina joined along. We were all assigned to different teachers, and
so the Internship began
OBSERVING BETH BLANKENSHIPS CLASS
11TH AP LANGUAGE AND COMPOSITION
HER DAILY CLASSES
• I had the honor of working with Mrs. Beth Blankenship who teaches AP
Language and Composition at Oakton High School in Fairfax, Virginia to 11 th
• Mrs. Blankenship always started her classes with the AGENDA of the day so
that the students knew what to expect, sometimes in the agenda she would
also include assignments for future classes or for dead lines to meet (for
instance one time she reminded them about their SAT’s tests and AP prep-
test samples coming up).
• The classes last a total of 90 minutes and they are arranged as A or B day,
so that students have her every other day. She has a total of 140 students
all AP English. Most of her groups are big, ranging from 20-30 students.
• Mrs. Blankenship is a well prepared professional, knows her subject area
well, and enjoys teaching her classes. She has lots of patience with students
and respects them. She also provides the students with second chances and
ways for them to keep up with their work and earn good grades, without
• The load to cover is HEAVY which makes the class very structurized and it
sometimes doesn’t leave much of a chance for holistic learning or an active
• Her students are used to working independently, when she assigns a task
they get started without hesitating (at least the majority).
• Mrs. Blankenship is always well prepared for teaching her classes, has all the
materials ready for her classes to flow without problems.
• The curriculum load she needs to cover is pre-established and it includes
novels, grammar, Elements of Literature, Tone and Rethoric, among others.
• As I was there I got to see her teach and go over the following topics: “The
Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Noun clauses, Paragraph Writing,
Portfolios, and Tone and Rethoric.
• At the entrance of the class the students already know that the baskets
there are for them to grab any assessment that would be used on that day.
Very structurized and students respond well to it. The students know that
writing prompts, worksheets, readings, etc. are there for them to obtain.
• The use of post-its as an assignment in the student’s novels to mark the
page they liked the most and why? The students turn their novels in for the
teacher to read their comments.
• Mrs. Blankenship has her students be analytical through writing, one good
idea is the DOUBLE-JOURNAL ENTRY per chapter. In the classes I saw
this was in relationship to Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”.
• Very Good Writing and Comment Editing Notations.
• For some Quizzes the teacher only allowed the students to take out their
notes, not open book quiz but open note quiz.
• I got to see posted in the walls student’s POEMS modeled after Langston
Hughes’ “Theme for essay B” which were wonderful… reminded me of the “I
am..” poems my students do with me.
• For Writing Mrs. Blankenship encouraged her students to write as best they
can, always having enough backup to support their ideas. And something she
stressed in them is that even if they are going to write about something
absurd or out of the ordinary like “School is a waste of time” to make sure
and be able to PULL IT OFF! (meaning good grammar, syntax, good
structure in sentences, good essay format, good topic sentences and thesis
• For late work Mrs. Blankenship has a “Late Work Submission Form” which
students have to staple for their late work in orther for it to be graded.
And it has to be submitted to the late basket. This helps her in parent
meetings for instance, and to keep track of students academic achievement.
• She also has something called a “Grace Pass” which allows students a coupon
for a one day late ona any assignment without penalty. I think this is
interesting… sometimes kids do have bad days or misfortunes.
• It was interesting to see that sometimes Mrs. Blankeship would salute the
students either to welcome them to class or as they were leaving and she
would get no response from them.
• As students saw me for the first time no one said hello or goodbye to me,
but after I taught them class and I got more involved with them they were
actually excited to see me again. And this even impacted on how they saluted
Mrs. Blankenship, I saw they were more polite in saluting her as well.
• Class arrangement was in normal line up style, At the beginning I saw that
whenever Mrs. Blankenship asked a question only the same students anwered,
and they were not really eager to do so, some kids were even sleeping. But,
things changed by the end of my internship Mrs Blankenship arranged the
students to sit facing the middle of the room, and this made them
participate more and be much more involved in class discussions. There was
much more energy in the room.
• Sometimes because of WORK-OVERLOAD and meeting the SCHEDULE and
AGENDA there is not much interaction with students, the students barely
work in groups, get up, or have any means of creative or cooperative learning.
Not much from the MI and Different Learning Styles.
• Students are aware of their own learning, they don’t cheat or are lazy about
the work – at least the majority are very responsible.
• At the beginning I saw it was hard for Mrs. Blankenship to get her students
excited and happy… later on when I taught them I saw it could be posible to
do so, they just were tired of the routine and used to acting the same way. I
actually commented this to her and I also commented on the fact that the
students didn’t respond to her saluting, or said thankyou when she gave them
a candy for instance; her reply was that she got used to it but that after
observing my class she had also thought about putting more energy and life
into her teachings and having students more involved. (This actually made
me reflect on my own teachings and I realized that sometimes I too, get
comfortable and stop innovating or I also get caught up in meeting
curriculum or tasks… and students get lost that way and learning becomes
boring and meaningless!)
OBSERVING OTHER TEACHERS AT OAKTON
10th GRADE REGULAR ENGLISH
WARM UP SNEEZE AND WRITING
• Interesting WARM UP called SNEEZE AND WRITING the purpose of this
warm up is for students to write for a period of 20 minutes (or set time)
straight about a certain topic given by the teacher. The idea behind doing
this activity is for students to have an opportunity to write, to develop a
VOICE, it also helps them to get more comfortable with time and pressure.
The rules were:
o No stopping at all, the pen has to keep going.
o There is no editing in this process.
o The students may cross out but they ought to keep writing.
o If the students don’t know what else to write about they should write
“ I don’t know what to write” over and over until they get an idea.
o Sometimes the assignment would be to take home afterwards and
edit; sometimes peers will check each others work and then the
teacher; and sometimes only the teacher will revise the work.
• The topic of the Sneeze and Write activity was “An incident that
demonstrates or demonstrated my values…”
• OBSERVATIONS: Good warm up, it was the first time the students did it,
and some were really into it, others kind of got writing almost at the end,
but the idea and purpose were explained and discussed with them, and over
all they seemed to like it.
• The teacher asked for some volunteers to read certain parts from the
play, they easily volunteered and went to the front of the classroom.
• The teacher interrupted as the students were reading to promote class
discussion and check for understanding.
• Then after finishing with the reading for the day, the teacher had the
students work in pairs, what they had to do was with the given passages
from scene 2 of “Antigone” the students had to translate to common
every day English. When they were done the teacher asked for some
volunteers to share and she gave feedback.
• OBSERVATIONS: The idea of reading and cooperative learning was
great, but I did see that the teacher did not motivate the students on
reading louder, with more emphasis, she did not give them feedback on
their tone, entonation or pronounciation.
REVIEWING VOCABULARY HOMEWORK
• The teacher had the students stand up and go over their vocabulary
homework, if they had a wrong one then they had to sit down… those
standing up at the end where the vocabulary winners!
• OBSERVATIONS: Interesting and fun way to review homework! Students
seemed to enjoy themselves.
• The teacher had the Senior students pick any object they wanted and they
had to repeat it 100 times in different creative ways. For example two
students there were doing THE SUN. This same idea can be done with apples
for example and some whole apples, red, green, ½ apples, etc.
• The teacher also showed a wonderful video on vision and illusion from the
the Renaissance artists called MASTERS OF ILLUSION- (can get it at
National Galery of Art in Down Town). This video was shown to the 10th
graders who were learning about proportion, the vanishing point in pictures
and angles. Then these students were to go to the hall ways and draw the
hall ways by free hand and establish their vanishing point and horizon line.
To establish the vanishing point she had two students stand opposite each
other face to face… and that was the vanishing point.
• A cool idea I liked for sculptures was that students make their own robot or
“monster” from at least 5 different resources better if they are recycle,
and then they have to explain how the idea was born… they may even use
11TH REGULAR ENGLISH
• The teachers welcomed the students to class dressed as judges!
• The class started off with the teachers (it was a shared class with two
teachers) having the students write a Journal entry titled “Have you ever
been acused of doing something wrong that you did not do?”… and along came
some other questions like “What was the outcome of the situation?, How did
you handle yourself?, If you argued your innocence, did that help or hinder
the situation?” This journal entry was to get the students started on the
novel “The Salem Witch trials”
• After the Journal writing, the teachers conducted an activity pretending
they were in a TRIAL. Some students were given red cards, others green,
others blue. Each color represented the acused, the defendants, and the
presecutors. And si the acused had to read what they were charged with and
then the others had to take part in. It was a lively class, very dinamic and
students enjoyed themselves.
• The teacher invited us (the four TEA members attending Oakton) to hear
her students share their ghost stories from their countries of origin. The
experience was great, especially because the teacher had the whole
classrom set up for Halloween; including smells, pumpkins, etc. The teacher
herself was dressed up and she also shared a story of her own with the
students. The students were all from different parts of the world, and some
have been with her only a month while others more than a year. I noticed
that she was an extremely dedicated teacher who motivated her students to
• This class was taught by Mrs. Fernandez who was a very energetic woman,
who kwew her subject area extremely well, loved to teach and did it with
passion. The day in which I got to see her class she was teaching a class
related to the process of RESPIRATION in several living things. She
actually conducted a lab on the respiration of peas, for which she combined
the computer and its technology in doing scales, tables, and graphs. She also
had the students (12th graders) do a quiz, and later she had them go over a
quiz which they had done the previous class. Overall it was a great class to
witness and she demonstrated to be a professional but at the same time
OBSERVING OAKTON’S CULTURE
• I loved to see the Vision of Oakton pasted on many of its walls. That way
students and staff can constantly be reminded of it and identify with it.
• Every Wednesday morning the teachers arrive at the same time in the
morning but the students arrive later, the purpose is for teachers to get
together with the other teachers who teach the same subject and grades
and come up with new ideas for their teachings; check progress of students;
or just keep up with each other’s work. The day I was there the teachers
were discussing “WHAT SHOULD AN 11TH AP LANGUAGE STUDENT
• The megaphone sounds all Fridays and calls for students to stand up and do a
one minute silence and then get up and do the pledge of allegiance.
• All classes have the US flag infront above the boards. Creates patritism.
• I liked the many types of sweatshirts, shirts, sportswear that the students
wore from the school even when they didn’t have to wear them… no uniform
school. Cool and fun designs! (Maybe a good option for Fridays at
GOODMAN). For example at Oakton it was a pride to wear the gold and
• I got to go to a pep-rally which was cool, lots of spirit and good energy from
kids and teachers. I also liked the pre-pep rally preparations… and spirit
• Not like many public High-Schools in the States, Oakton is a priviledge
school. It is not even like all of the High-Schools in the Virginia or DC area,
Fairfax is a county that is mostly wealthy and with High standards in
• Dress code is not respected, girls have tiny skirts and no one tells them
• I didn’t like that the students had too much physical contact with their
boyfriends and girlfriends and no one said anything to them.
• I think that students were respectful, though they could taught better
manners for instance saluting, saying thankyou, these I believe are also
powerful tools for today’s society.
• Overall my experience was great, the openess of my mentor and her
willingness for me to get as much as I could from my experience was
• I enjoyed teaching, even if it was just for a few minutes. I would have hoped
for more time teaching, but I guess because of the tight AP curriculum this
INTERN: Carolina Barrera Valenzuela Grade Level: 11th Grade AP Language and Composition
TITLE: The Scarlet Letter WHAT DOES “A” MEAN? DATE: Oct. 19th, 2009
I. Objectives •
Students will show their understanding of the symbolism
behind the letter “A” in the novel “The Scarlet Letter.”
• The students will create their own artistic renditions of the
Scarlet “A” according to their analysis on word chosen, quote
and symbolism from novel.
• The students will show knowledge on quoting according to
• The students will show knowledge on analytical paragraph
writing related to quotes.
II. Materials •
for Novel “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Learning • Worksheet with “A” drawn given by the teacher.
• Markers, crayons, pencils, scissors, glue etc. Any material
necessary to make the Artistic Rendition of the “A.”
• Notebook or paper for draft writing.
• Dictionary or vocabulary related to the novel given by the
• Hacky sack (ball)
III. Procedures for 1. First the teacher will ask the students if they know what
Learning the word “Rendition” means. The students should Brain
Activities Storm on this particular word.. The students will take turns
in answering, as they raise their hands the teacher will
toss a ball (hacky sack) as symbol for the right to speak,
and as the discussion goes on the teacher will provide
2. The teacher will give her meaning or feedback to the word
rendition and ask how this word relates to the symbolism
of the letter “A” in the “Scarlet Letter.” Again the students
will take turns in answering.
3. The teacher will hand in a worksheet with a big A drawn.
4. The teacher will ask the students to look for 3 words
besides adultery, that begin with A that come to mind
when they consider the story of The Scarlet Letter. The
students have to write these words on the BACK of their
5. The students need to think on “What text leads them to
think these words?” and Find the textual evidence
(quotes) and write each page number next to each word.
6. Then the students should pick ONE of the words and
write it in large capital letters on the rectangle attached to
the bottom of the large A. Then, copy the textual
evidence (quote) that shows that word onto the rectangle
attached to the bottom of the large A and make sure to
use correct MLA format for citing text.
7. Then the students should analyze the text and in a well-
written paragraph of at least five sentences, analyze why
they chose this word and this text to represent the story.
8. Then the students should decorate their letter A in a
creative way. And base their decoration of the A on the
text and analysis - the decoration should be a visual
representation of the word chosen. They should finish this
IV. Assessment • Use scoring rubric for decoration of A, word and text
evidence/ quote (MLA format), and paragraph analysis.
V. Differentiation • Each student is able to choose their own words. They are not
forced upon them.
• Each student can create their own artistic rendition according
to their own abilities- so long they reflect an understanding
and symbolism related to word and quote chosen.
• Students can work at their own pace in class, as long as it is
finished for homework.
VI. Reflection • Class discussion on meaning of “rendition” and its multiple
meanings in relationship to the “A” and its symbolism in the
novel “The Scarlet Letter”
• Personal insight through quotes found in novel related to the
words chosen by each student.
• Personal analysis and insight through reflective paragraph on
word and quote chosen.
• Artistic rendition reflecting the students’ own understanding
and artistic view on the letter A’s symbolism.
The Scarlet Letter
WHAT DOES “A” MEAN?
Reflects the chosen word in some aspect ……………. ____/ 4
Word and Text Evidence / Quote:
Quote relates to word chosen.
Quote is correctly quoted and punctuated according to MLA format…. ____ / 5
At least five sentences in the paragraph.
REFLECTION on TEACHING EXPERIENCE
For me teaching is simply great… and I simply enjoy teaching. But teaching other
students who are not my normal students made me reflect on many things, being in
this school, observing other teachers, another culture, different techniques,
strategies, etc... All these made me think. And the truth is I got to see that I had
gotten too accommodated in doing the same thing over and over, and that does not
empower my students or my self. I got to see my own teachings and how my over all
perspective had been and I reflected a lot and saw that I need to readjust many
things which I’ve lost because of paperwork or simply because sometimes you get
burned out. Overall this experience has provided “Carolina” with new energy, new
eyes, new perspective and I love it; because to be honest I missed my old self… but
this new Carolina will be a better one!