Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Very nice

I am happy about the short teaching week!

Yesterday morning, however, I was not so thrilled. I woke up with a headache, a sore throat, and soon after a nosebleed. Good morning to you, too! The throat thing backed off enough to let me yammer on all day, but the headache continued into a migraine, which made that yammering not very easy or enjoyable.

Other than that, we are getting into the media stuff but good! Today we reviewed the second of four (or maybe five) types of advertising. I have been explaining the rationales behind each and showing examples, then leading them through a discussion about the images, words, and messages being sent. It's quite fun.

The kids are easily drawn into this, because it's pictures and things they are familiar with. I like to take the point of view that this study (and media literacy in general) is a way to talk back and avoid being manipulated. As I point things out in the ads, and they become more and more absurd sounding, I see the lights dawn on their faces that yes, advertising really does do a lot of silly things to make them think certain ways.

Some of the ads the kids turned in for homework were really great. Except for the kid-like drawing and pasted-on pictures of celebs like Lindsay Lohan or Beyonce, the ads do sound like real ones. Very impressed. Although, since this generation has been exposed to more media than any other, it makes sense that they should easily recreate it.

The other thing this week was tests. For me, not the school or state or anything, thank goodness. No, it was time for some good old assessment. There was a vocabulary test, which is part of two things: my nefarious plan to build some serious lexical awareness, and my thesis research project.

Then it was time for a grammar test. A week or two ago we learned the types of nouns and verbs. (I think I posted about it.) I finally got around to squishing in a test on it.

It took me all day yesterday to grade the tests for ONE class--my lowest one--and when I was done, I was utterly dismayed. There were two parts of the test. One had four sentences, and they had to underline nouns and circle verbs, and then identify each. You know, that 'bear' is a common singular noun. The second part was simply to make a few nouns plural, and I think I got most of the rules in there (changing y to ies, adding es, blah blah).

I got more than a couple 'berrys', one 'teacher's', and? one 'foots.'

The first part was just atrocious and I was pretty sure an inaccurate tell of what they actually knew. So, being the reflective and thoughtful teacher that I am, I talked to them (remember, this is my low class) first thing.

I reminded them of the process that we went through in learning nouns and verbs. Just to remind them and make them think about how yes, all from the test had been done in class, and reviewed as a class, and wasn't tough. I said, I am willing to drop the results of yesterday's test, for you to do this one.

For the first time, I really walked them through a test. I started with having them write the categories. I walked around and checked each and every paper to see if they had it. God love them, all but a few dunderheads did. (Whee! They DID learn!) The ones that didn't, I tried to jog their memories and nudge them to rethinking what they had (because they were stuck in 'person, place, thing') without telling them what the correct ones were. (I did honestly think about doing that--the four categories--as a class, just to make sure they had it right. But I decided that that would take too much away from them and their responsibility to learn and retain and recall information that is done and practiced in class.)

The next step was a list of varied nouns that they had to classify. I asked the class, "Out of the four categories, how many does each noun fit into?" "Two," a number of them chorused. Hurrah, they remembered! They completed that task.

The third part was identifying nouns and verbs in sentence context. Yesterday's test had fairly complicated sentences for having them look for parts of speech. So I wrote much shorter and simpler sentences for today's. Still got a couple just plain stupid shit ("the" as a helping verb), but overall, I was thrilled at the many correct responses. Fully half the class got between 95-100% of the things done right! This is the class with the lowest comprehension and test scores!

I felt really good. First, I was excited that the students would have a high test score to end their quarter. Second, I was hugely relieved that they proved to me (and themselves) that they did know it after all. Third, I was proud of myself. I saw that something was wrong, that maybe I had erred or overestimated. But instead of stamping my feet about what they couldn't do, which honestly is my usual reaction, I did something to fix it, and gave the kids a second chance, a more attainable task...and by gum, they stepped up. It was a 'good teacher' realization for me. Look at me grow and better both myself and the students!

Today is Wednesday. Which means that I had class last night. With a migraine. UGH times three. I took some pain relievers before I got there, and soon enough they did kick in. The caffeine in them worked; I got a lot done. We have a huge pile of things to turn in next Tuesday. BUT, it won't be graded. The prof is just going to give us feedback on whatever we do turn in, because all the real stuff is due at the end of the semester. As she did say, she tried to break it up for us and help make the gargantuan tasks get done faster and easier. (We're talking a ten-article 20-page annotated bibliography that is to be turned into a 10 to 15-page literature review. Plus a handful of small and silly things.)

That was a huge load off my mind. I've been pecking away at the bibliography, rather like an academic fireline. I first went through and put in the easy stuff, then went back through and began filling in the more detailed and complicated. Now I have to make my final rounds, completing the more difficult and time-consuming tasks of reviewing results and discussions from my research articles.

So, I'm going to do my best to get things done. I'll turn in everything I have. Interestingly, knowing that I don't have to do it will probably motivate me to actually do it. Because I'll be doing it for me, to get it done and out of the way and evaluated, rather than just kicking my own ass to finish it to meet an arbitrary deadline. I've got a twisted mind about schoolwork. Thank god this is my last real full semester.

With the five kids who actually show up every day for the stupid minutes, I've been doing grammar with them. Yesterday we started going through a worksheet that made them choose the correct tense of irregular verbs (ie, chose versus chosen). They paid attention and learned about the "have/has" being a tell to use the past participle [chosen, for those of you who've been out of English class for awhile ;)]. Today, we continued with that. I keep asking them why they chose what they did. I have also been asking them to identify the present tense of the verbs. They didn't really get that because it's not one of the choices. Exasperated, I began the very tedious operation of explaining infinitives and conjugation. It's not easy in English because most of it is the same.

So, don't you know it, I showed them an example in French, just to let them see how it works and changes according to the subject.

I said that the infinitive always has a "to" in front of it, to show that it hasn't been messed with, or broken down yet into conjugations.

I used "to be" because it's the most irregular of English verbs. When I prompted them for the conjugations, they were befuddled. So I said, "Well, sometimes you hear people say, 'He be late.' What's the correct way to say that?" And they replied, "He is late." And so on.

So for the most part, they stuck with me and seemed to begin understanding. I explained that this is really important, to know grammar of your own language, if you ever want to learn a different language. Plus, one of my girls knows French (she's originally from one of their colonies), so she was excited to share her knowledge when I conjugated 'dormir' (same meaning in French and Spanish, which I love).

So today, I say, Go with Grammar, my friends.


For the ladies out there: Do you wait for him to do the asking out, or do you take the risk?


Nancy said...

take the risk! the worst that can happen? he'll say no. eh.

good work on the grammar! you're making the lives of high school english teachers a heck of a lot easier!

Anonymous said...

You've always been the grammar queen. Teach on, media-mistress!

Oh my! I'd say ask him.

Lots of luck and bug hugs,


Gwennaƫlle said...

Grammar...mmmmmm Always hated it no matter which language it was. I have to go back to it for the oral of the C.A.P.E.S includes some grammar.
One thing that is hard for many French in your conjugations is that there is an "s" at the end of a verb with the third "singular person" for present time and not for the first and second. In French it is the opposite. It drives many students just crazy. And the stupid thing they say to justify their stupidity is " is like that in French so why not in english?" The answer is in the question kids!