Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My Second Day

My second day was OK. I am definitely learning, but that's the point of this whole thing.

My third hour was rough, but I'm starting to figure out what I need to do in order to make it less rough. One, I need to explain the directions much more clearly. I need to walk them through exactly what I want, which is also connected to clarity. I also need to model exactly what I want.

Here's what I did:

I had them start off with a journal prompt, which was something like, "Write a memory from elementary school. It can be a field trip, a special moment, a favorite or least favorite teacher. Set the scene and describe the characters. How does this event effect your education and experiences now?" I won't have them turn their journals in until Friday, but I overheard one girl saying, "They give us too much time to do things. I was done with the journal in like four sentences." So maybe before I give the prompt tomorrow, I will tell them that they have five minutes (instead of ten) and that they should continue to write until the end of that five minutes--whatever comes to mind. This is supposed to be a more free-writing experience, and this kind of prompt could have helped them create a two page typed story, so I know there is more than four sentences in them. I'll also emphasize that this is informal writing, so mistakes won't count against their grade. I'm looking to see how thoughtful the reflection is.

I followed that up with having them look at the poem "Mushrooms" by Sylvia Plath, only they did not have the title on it. They were to write all over the poem--point out moments that struck them, comments in the margin, and try to generally figure out "what this poem is about." I let them have until the end of the hour before lunch to do that--they were done in two minutes, while I gave them something like ten. Ugh.

I decided quickly that working alone wasn't working, so I had them do small groups when they came back. I told them to discuss what they think this poem is about along with searching for evidence and they would report back to the group. I told them to give textual evidence for their conclusions. I didn't quite get what I was looking for, and I couldn't tell if some of the students had figured out the answer or knew it from previous reading (or finding out in another way). One girl was pointed out to have read it before, so that might have been it. Anyway, I put the reader-response theory up on the overhead and told them what it was. I then told them that they need to look at the text and put their own experiences under the column that says "reader" and evidence for meaning from the text under "text." I told them to go ahead and they were like, "What? Wait, what are we supposed to do?" I had assumed that they understood when they had no clue. I'm actually fairly pleased with the fact that I kind of did a on-the-spot modeling of reader-response. I said, "Well, I know one of my friends had this problem with mushrooms in her backyard..." and explained about how they eat away at what's rotting beneath the soil and only then will they disappear. So I found evidence from the text to support that kind of thought. (Actually, I had them point out some quotes.) So some of them got it and did it on their own and others just copied what I wrote on the overhead, but I had them turn it in right away, so they didn't have a chance to do it on their own. That means I have thirty papers to grade and no way to feel good about taking away points when my directions weren't clear but many students who "got it", which means I have to figure out how to give them points for their effort. So I decided to say that it's worth three points, and let the students who did well get four, and I will explain how that is what I am looking for, so that kind of answer would get full points (not extra) and others would lose points. I want inquiry and exploration on these kinds of things, so I will promise to them to be more clear and give them more time, and they will in turn be required to be more expansive and exploratory.

Amy is going to go over my different ideas for tomorrow (which I need to come up with--right now, I am going between writing this entry and finishing up the first vocabulary work of the trimester--quiz as well as overheads and next set of vocab.) and we'll figure out which are best. She was really helpful when I talked about what I want out of the class, and she was good about suggesting how to start To Kill a Mockingbird. She said that she has second period planning, but she had planned on using it for my questions and helping me get through things.

(She was also able to get me a key the other day, which is superfun--she has track after school every day, so I will stick around to do work and she'll have to leave by three.)

The journalism class went great. I even had extra handouts that I didn't end up getting to, which was nice. I want to give the English 10B's the chance to do work at the end of the period and in general, they seem to be using that time (I have two students on IEPs in that class that definitely need the extra time to do the work), so I don't want to take it away from them. The Journalism class hasn't yet been using the time (but they don't have a lot to do just yet), and they line up at the front of the room, which drives me nuts. Tomorrow, I'm going to have to come up with an activity that keeps them in their desks.

What I don't understand is why do they not do the journals? Some kids didn't do it at all and some left their entries behind on the floor (which means they don't get them back, except I did save the one, so I might be nice and give it back).

But journalism went well! The kids were fairly engaged. They got to look through the tabloids and presented what they found to the class, which was nice. I think they had an OK time of it and got what we were looking for, which was good. Tomorrow we will review a section of Napoleon Dynamite and we'll do our first mock press conference--woo hoo! I'm looking forward to it.

Their homework was also to rewrite a fairy tale or folktale or mythology story as a tabloid, using bad ethics. :) One page, front and back.

OK, I am losing time before bed, so I am going to "publish" this and get working! I think I'm going to run to the library this evening, or maybe I'll get some mocha and do some work at B&N. I want to compile ideas and finish up my grading. Blech.

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