Thursday, March 31, 2005

It Should Really be Fat Thursday

I only say this because today is a "full" day, but it's good because I am experiencing new things!

Today was the day that Jill came in to do her initial observation. I had my English 10B class, and I had a pretty full plan, but some of the kids weren't quite understanding the Reader Response Lens, so I had to give it some more time. I am probably going to return to it tomorrow and give a more clear explanation of what it is.

Anyway. They wrote in their journals a bit about a particular character's view of the trial and Tom Robinson, then I did the reminders (which they might be sick of at this point, but so many people don't seem to know when they have things due and I've even had a few go, "We have a quiz today?", so if I remind them enough, maybe (just maybe) we can avoid some of those questions and moments of surprise), I gave them the sixteen terms that would appear on the vocabulary quiz, and since the poetry presenter for today was absent (she also forgot she had to go on Tuesday, so this will be the second time we've had to reschedule for her), I gave them the last ten minutes before lunch to work on the chapter's questions. When they came back from lunch, we started in on the Reader Response and that took the rest of the period.

So, bit by bit:

Journals: I think one of the biggest problems I've been happening, and it's increasing, is getting them to concentrate when it's time to start class. I made the seating chart alphabetically, which put one girl (KK) in the back of the room. KK is kind of the source of a growing problem... another student, JM (who is at this minute, taking a make-up quiz in the room) opted to move to the front of the room because he couldn't concentrate and he wasn't getting his things done. I think this indicates that I should make a new seating chart! Which is what they will get on Monday. (I had already hinted that they would get a new one, so this shouldn't come as a surprise. I'll let them know tomorrow too.) You can bet that KK will be in the front of the room. And I'll respect the needs of some of the students who have been doing their work--I see that I can put some of those kids in the far back because they can manage to stay on task without goofing off. I'm just frustrated. I understand that she's social, and it's only been nine days, so things might change, but it's still incredibly frustrating to me. A lot of those kids would be doing their work, but she's back there chatting and such. Anyway, I'm bracing myself for the uproar of new seating but hoping it goes smoothly.

Reader Response: They still aren't getting it, but we're getting there... I had them define it, which was good. I think next time I introduce it to them, I'm going to say something like, "OK, so you're reading this book, and it's really hard to understand. There are so many different ways you could read it to find meaning and comprehension. One way is to look through a lens, and we've already been touching on the reader response lens. I find a passage that I am finding particularly difficult, and I decide to see if there is anything in my own life experiences to relate to it." Ta-da! I'll just have to wait until next time for that.

I'm going to skip down to some of Jill's really great suggestions:

Some of the big ones that I can remember...

Don't talk over them, but give them moments of silence. I have some in the back of the classroom that have the bad habit of chatting away as I'm trying to explain things or when they're supposed to be working. That usually works, but especially with the journals, I would try to shout the prompt and let them work while I did my thing.

Get down on their level more. They had a lot of time to work on the Reader-Response work, and I only squatted once when trying to explain things. I'm a pretty short person (obviously, for those of you who know me), so I'm not too intimidating when I am standing.

And let my personality come through a bit more. Which I think will come with time, and I know it comes more with the Journalism class. I feel comfortable joking with kids who I know won't go so terribly off track. I'm just figuring out who I am as a teacher, so I think that will factor in. I hope so! Smile more. :) I'm going to try. She said I come off as a serious teacher, which is good, but be friendly too.

Other good bits of advice... she said she used to use popsicle sticks with their names on it to "volunteer" people for participation. Pictionary for vacobulary practice worked well for her, and I could try it... She also said she made it a goal to try to make some personal connection with each student, be it a smile when they come in or something else along the lines.

I can't wait until she sees my Journalism class though. I know she has a bazillion other (better) things to do with her time, but I'm pretty bummed that it's only three times that she'll come in. I want her to see how the English 10 class changes, and I would love her to see how the Journalism class has been going. Luckily (for me), Amy has seen almost 100% of my teaching so far, so she can definitely give me tons of great feedback. Maybe next week I'll do a little "OK, how can I improve?" kind of chat. :) She's been so good at getting me to repair lessons before they begin. We haven't had a lot of time aftewards to reflect--she has a class directly after my 3rd hour and she has to go to track right after my 5th hour.

I told Jill that I could reflect all I want. It's what I change that counts. So we'll see how I change, especially in relation to all the great feedback I've been given recently.

OK, off to prepare for open house... a presentation for the parents. Not so scary, right???

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