Semester 2, Week 10: Worksheet kids, redux

This week I decided I couldn’t face another worksheet. We began the week with an “Amnesty Day.” I gave the students grade checks and their folders of work, along with the mountain of work I had graded over the weekend. They spent the morning ostensibly redoing and doing past work, to make up their dismal grades. What I noticed about this was that they either didn’t bother to do more than one or two things, despite the fact that they were missing several or many, or they did a slapdash job which meant nothing to them or me. Most of those who were failing, are still failing. So enough amnesty.

I am not a fan of worksheets, but when I do use them they are always part of a lesson and always interactive. So, really redoing them is bound to be worthless. At the end of any grading period, when I hand out a grade check, they always act surprised that they are missing so many assignments. I don’t know why they are surprised, but there it is. It’s not like they handed them in.

So, being sick of worksheets, yesterday I decided to change it up. I told them I thought we’d been doing too much “fill in the blank” lately, and I was going to read them one of my favorite stories, “The Circuit,” by Francisco Jimenez. You could have heard a feather flutter in the quiet of that room as I read about little Francisco coming home to packed cardboard boxes. They begged me to read the entire book to them, and I agreed that little by little I will.

After the story I handed out little pieces of paper with idioms written on them and had the students draw the one they got. They were instructed to draw what was said, not what it meant, (in the event they knew what it meant, which hardly anyone did.) Today after we read another story, I hung the pictures on the walls and whiteboard and handed them a list of what each idiom meant. They were to go around and try to match the pictures with the list. In retrospect, I know this was hard and I gave them too many, but they were valiant. They walked around, talking them over, most of them completely engaged in the activity. Except Jesus, who just sat in his chair. I encouraged him to get up and get started, and he just moaned that it was too hard. He couldn’t possibly do it. I explained the activity again, and told him I thought this would be more fun than another worksheet, and I really wanted him to try. He said, “Just give me a worksheet. I can do worksheets. I don’t even know what to do here.”

My point exactly.

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