Tuesday, January 5, 2016

That's What it's all About

Every year it seems like there is one English class out of the four or five I teach that is just a little more challenging than the rest. Lessons that work perfectly for every other group somehow fall flat for these kids; work that other classes easily complete is not so for them, and it's hard not to blame those students when there is evidence that my planning was sound.

This year it is the last class period of the day when things seem to go awry. As an example, yesterday, less than 4%, or 2 out of 55, of the students in my other classes forgot or did not complete their reading logs, but in that class? It was three times that many and ten times that percentage-- 6 out of 15, or 40%. The classes are randomly, heterogeneously grouped, so what's a teacher to do?

Well, the job is to teach everyone, not just the easy ones, and so I try to set aside my frustration and problem solve. As a group, they are a smart, energetic, but unfocused bunch of kids who all want to do well in school and learn. It is their last core class of the day, an hour after lunch and right before they head off to PE and electives.

I always include structured movement opportunity in my lessons, and today was no exception. We were doing an activity where they had to evaluate a piece of writing with a partner. It was set up like speed dating so that one or the other student would have to move after each question and work with somebody new. For these guys, I decided to up the ante.

"Vote with your feet!" I said when going over the answers. "If you think this was a summary, do the Hokie Pokie!" They all jumped up, waved their hands in the air and turned around.

Next question, "If you think this is synthesis? Give me 5 jumping jacks!" The room erupted in vigorous calisthenics.

And so it went, until it was time for them to settle down and apply the principles we had just discussed to their own writing...

in blessed silence.

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