Well, last week was a pretty good one. At least once I came back from being sick for two days, and once I got over the disappointment in the class who stole everything that wasn’t nailed down in my absence. And yes, there was a sub in the room. But enough about that.
Having decided that we’re going to move forward and no longer allow certain behaviors to hijack school for everyone else, we started off this week with “Thank You Ma’am,” by Langston Hughes. (The hijackers were invited to leave the room if they couldn’t be part of the deal.) The kids were so excited to read it, and talk about it. I suppose that it didn’t hurt that I demonstrated a half nelson on one of the kids, dragging him along as I recited that portion of the story. But they were happy to be learning about Conflict, making predictions and I think just to be actually doing something interesting in class. I have hope for this seventh grade group. (With the hijackers sitting outside, that is, doing seatwork. Hopefully they’ll come around soon.)
I intended to read “Thank You Ma’am” with the eighth graders as well, since I didn’t read it with them last year when I was using the other boring curriculum, but half of them said they’d already read it last year with my daughter. This surprised me because they were her lowest group and I thought she was using the boring curriculum as well. So I had to make an instant shift in lesson plan.
I went to CBS.com and put on the latest episode of “The Amazing Race.” Don’t judge yet. This is a lesson in progress, another idea of my daughter (who teaches next door to me – how cool is that?). She went to school with two of the contestants on the show, so she came up with an idea for our advisory classes which I’ve taken to one of my English classes. Two weeks ago, when the show began, we gave the kids a graphic organizer which gave them space to choose three teams. (Once their top team goes home, they will have two backups.) Below that are boxes for checking off whether the team is displaying some characteristics which are important to our school (Being Present and Prepared, Respectful, Integrity, Determination and Etiquette), and a place to write a sentence telling how they are or aren’t showing the desired behavior. Each time there is a commercial I mute it and they take that time to check off which characteristics their chosen team is displaying. At the end of the episode, they write what their team is doing well, and predict how they will do next week.
The original idea was to show it for 15 minutes per day, just during the advisory time. However, the day I came back and had to instantly come up with a lesson, I put it on for 40 minutes, just up to the last 10 minutes of the episode. The students did all the writing in one day, and had to predict who was going home. The next day they finished viewing the show and checked their predictions.
They then wrote a letter to their team, following a four part prompt. They were to tell them why they had chosen them as their team, tell what they thought they were doing well so far, give them a little advice on how they might improve their progress and ask them questions. Now I’m wondering if we might get the local guy to come to our classroom once the show ends. How cool would that be?
Next week we’ll go back to 15 minutes per day, and I’ll come up with something different to write or do with the episode. This is holding their attention in a huge way, while making them do some critical thinking and writing. So far it’s a winner. Just before we start Snake Week. More to come on that!