Sunday, March 20, 2005


In response to my call for help on the vocabulary issue, my mother gave me two great suggestions:

PuzzleMaker and Quia

I had a dream last night that I was going over the definitions for the second set of vocabulary, but I couldn't find the overheads. I wasn't sure what to do!

I think that's one of the big things about teaching. So much can be micro-planned and organized, but so much comes up that you have to decide on a whim. In my first week, I had intended to have the first day be ice breaking activities, the second to cover reader response, the third to cover audience, the fourth to go over the basics of the novel as well as the time period and author, and the last day to have a vocab quiz. I didn't figure in time to work; I thought they could do the reading and the studying at home. Instead, I ended up factoring in fifteen to twenty minutes strictly as work time in most of my lessons this week.

Also, I am trouble shooting my way through figuring out how to introduce a unit. I'm excited about the Julius Caesar unit where students will pretend to be museum curators and create a presentation on those five topics (the two biographies and three histories). But I hadn't figured out a proper one for this unit. I did reader response on Tuesday. That was a bust, although I'm trying to re-do things so that they still can understand the important bits. I will have them do nearly the same thing with another piece of text (an excerpt from To Kill a Mockingbird? Another poem?), except I will properly model it and explain precisely what I want them to do.

(Did I mention Amy's experience modeling the highlighting? For the research unit, she has them do an issue in education. They use ELibrary to print articles, and instead of taking notes, she says that they can highlight articles. She wants them to have a balance of pros and cons, and in order to find those quotes, she has them highlight each in a different color. She would still get half the class asking her questions on how to do that when they hit the library. This time, she put an overhead up of an article and didn't get a single question on how she wanted them to highlight. It seems ridiculous to have to explain, but I'm really learning that there is definitely no such thing as overmodeling. Even if the smart ones are bored. That can free up time to work with the bored ones; the ones who have trouble "getting it" will have less questions. When written down that kind of sounds evil, but I'm getting the impression that much of teaching is a juggling act, and it's important to find a balance between the kids who desperately need your help and the kids that get it right away and need more of a challenge.)

Anyway, I got to the point that I didn't feel confident about how I was approaching anything in this class. I know that we need to have high expectations and we need to seem harder at the beginning, but at the same time, I felt guilty because they seemed so miserable. I know I need to personally disconnect myself, but it's hard when I know I'm doing things that I wouldn't even enjoy. I went over characters and setting on the overhead on Wednesday and part of Thursday. Blech. Then I decided to follow that up with a creative assignment--much more interesting. But this was a kind of last minute decision, so I was kind of figuring out what I required as I went. I wanted them to write a dramatic scene from one of the first four chapters. If they did it individually, I wanted them to do fifteen lines with three vocabulary words, with two people it would be twenty five lines and five vocabulary words, and with three people, it would be thirty five lines with seven vocabulary words. The students were confused at what I meant by "lines," and I explained that each time a character spoke, that would count as a line. The next day, I brought in an overhead of a random collection of lines from A Raisin in the Sun, which is the play most of them read (if not that, then Antigone) from the previous trimester. I showed them how to set the scene, how to include stage directions, etc. I never imagined these would be the kinds of things I would have to explain, but I've been making a lot of assumptions at this point.

The thing that frustrates me is figuring out how to balance my lessons. How to make it challenging and interesting enough for the students that are good at getting homework done and good at studying, but make it accessible enough for the students who have a hard time "getting" things. There are the students with an IEP, and they have their own unique needs and accomodations, which I'm completely happy to make, but I'm not sure at what point to make them and at what point to continue on.

Tomorrow I have my project proposal class. I had kind of forgotten about it after this crazy week. It meets every Monday, but we had last Monday off because of spring break. So now I have to get back into student mode tomorrow morning to make sure I'm on top of all the homework we have to do. Thank goodness the U classes only last until mid-May, which means I will have several weeks where I can just teach. (I wonder if we'll still have our Thursday seminars?)

Oh yes. Thursday seminars. We get to meet at Jill's house (our supervisor, who is really fabulous--honestly, I feel kind of guilty because I've had a great cooperating teacher, a great supervisor, and some great students thus far), and basically, we look at some case studies and talk about issues that have come up in our classrooms. And this week after the seminar, we went out for drinks at the Chatterbox (which is an awesome pub--I've enjoyed the bars I have visited with my cohort, including The Times and Keegan's), which is always nice. I like that our cohort gets along so well. I think it's a great way to set up the program--we all go through most classes together, so we start to have a sense that we're in this together. We give each other tips about teaching and job searches, we hang out... it's good. I think that's what I hope to find when I begin teaching in a school on a regular basis. We all go through so much together, and it's important that we have these bonds with one another. We're each other's best resources and best support system.

No comments: