Semester 2, Week 11: Third Quarter, done.

This week we gave the third quarter benchmark assessment, and this time, miracle of miracles, six of my students tested proficient. Thirty-five of them are approaching proficient, which is a huge growth. That leaves only 17 of them in the below proficient range. They were very excited, applauding each other. I called the parents of the proficient ones, and this week will try to call the parents of those whose scores went up. The kids whose parents got phone calls were delighted, as were their parents. One parent commented to her child that she sighed when she heard who was on the phone, thinking, “Now what has he done?” So it was great to deliver good news.

Something else happened which was even cooler, in my opinion, and it kind of relates to last week’s worksheet post. The quarter ended on Friday and I had two days left after the benchmark assessment. I didn’t want to start something new with so little time left in the week, so decided to have them write poems. I wrote on the board, “I am, I remember, I let go of…”* and read them a couple of poems in this format that my former high school students had written. I had no idea what to expect from this, as they haven’t had much opportunity to do something so open this year. (Yes, I know, that’s on me. This has truly been a year of discovery!) Sergius looked at me aghast. “You want me to write a poem? I don’t know how to do that!” I told him that I really wanted him to try and I was NOT going to give him a worksheet instead. He grabbed a word ticket out of a box and read it: “Spring,” it said. So he said “I have to write a poem about Spring.” He sat down and began to write, getting up after about every two lines to read it to me. I praised him and told him to sit down and keep on going. He gleefully said, “This is exciting!!” and kept writing.

By the end of the period about half the students had written sweet, heartfelt poems. Nancy wrote me a little note on the back of her poem about her grandpa who had passed away. It read, “Ms. Jacobs, Writing this poem made me feel emotional.” She later erased it, and promised to tell mem what it said, but I could read it. This little half hour exercise was a big deal for them, and for the first time I’ve noticed, they were proud of what they had done, and each wanted to make sure I’d read theirs and commented on its poignancy or funniness or even correctness.

Hm…One little thing, after three quarters and finally they are proud and excited about their work. I will definitely work the rest of the year differently, and will restructure things for next year. This was worth so much. There has to be a way for me to combine standards fulfillment with heart and soul fulfillment and I intend to find that balance.

*This is a structure I found in Susan Wooldridges’s book Poemcrazy. When she came to my classroom years ago, she had the students do it, and it really is a simple way for them to communicate something important to them.

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