Semester 2, Week 4 : Response to Lit

Sometimes things go from weird to sublimely weird. Having said that, things really went pretty well this week. Except that we spent two days preparing to write a response to lit essay, and then when it came to write it the students all just sat there, dumbfounded, completely without a clue as to how to begin. I gave them an opening line (The African proverb that the essay prompt was based around) and an outline for what to write about in each paragraph, all of which they had notes for. This seemed to me like solid preparation, and that they would just dive in and happily write. Didn’t happen. In the end, I’d say about 3/4 of them did actually turn in an effort. And for their first one, I’m good with that. Not at all wigged out like I might have been a few months ago. (Oh no! Does that mean I’m learning to modify my expectations? Took long enough!)

In the midst of this, I did something yesterday that has potential. They are still sitting in groups of four, and are learning to handle it quite well. It certainly makes collaboration and cooperative structures easier. Anyway, we had a half-hour period and they were at different stages in the essay writing. So I asked who was still writing, and directed them to two sets of tables. I had prepared some metacognitive questions for them to answer after writing the essay, and some were still working on those. They were directed to another area of the room, and those who had done everything got to have a silent jigsaw puzzle competition. It functioned beautifully, which leads me to believe that setting up an occasional program of “centers” might work out.

Which, I will say grudgingly, is very timely. Our district has decided that we are to do Mid-year Monitoring of all of our English Learners. We have a form to complete which has little boxes for each quarterly benchmark exam. We are to go back and write in the boxes each standard that each student scored “Below Proficient” on. Then we are to write in an equally tiny box all the intervention that has been done for each student. Apparently ELD class counts as intervention in this context. (I take issue with this, but there is nothing whatsoever to be gained from saying so. I just knitted through the instructions.) I teach ELD, so had to complete forms for all 60 of my students. One colleague had about 90 to do, and another had about 50. Most of the other teachers had between 10 and I don’t know, 25? to do. While it was interesting to do this exercise, it seems like we test them then look over their shoulders to see if they got it yet, then we test them again. It seems like authentic teaching is left out of the equation, but who am I to argue? So I don’t anymore. Well, hardly ever.

Anyway, as I did these forms, I envisioned a crate full of hanging folders, one folder for each essential standard. I would create a self-directed lesson for each of these standards. Then on a day a week the kids would be assigned to groups based on the standard they needed to review or relearn. I think that sounds like it could be really clean. Wait…I have to create all those lessons. And which groups would I work with, and could the others really self direct their lessons? Even with all the questions and what-ifs, the idea sounds cool to me. I might give it a little try and see if it has enough possibility to take it bigger. I’ll keep you posted.

Does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? Ideas for some snappy lessons I could locate without creating every single thing?

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