Tuesday, November 28, 2006

At least it's not Monday

This holiday weekend was all about life, and not about teaching. I slept in, I went to the library, hung out with good people, and felt like a normal person for four whole days! It was pretty great.

Naturally, then, the Monday morning alarm was quite the upsetting wake-up call. I'm sure you all can commiserate. Returning to work after time off is always sad and depressing for me. Though I probably would have soon gotten bored with more time off, I always prefer sleeping in than getting up before full daybreak.

The week seems to be going fine so far. We're wrapping up the persuasive stuff quickly. I'm constantly frustrated at the lack of work done by my students at home. My high-level class consistently performs well, with at least a 97% homework rate each night. But the other two classes, especially on a night like this, the homework completion rate drops to around 50%. And yesterday each class had at least twenty minutes to write in class. All they had to do was finish!

Today I taught them some good opening strategies, with my handy music lesson (see my wiki for details), and also the structure of a good introduction: hook, background info, and thesis statement. Most of the classes had time to write their own introduction to see how it went. Unfortunately, that was about it.

I made some different choices with each class today, and it was interesting to see how those choices affected class. The first class is my best-performing, so they were able to guess most of the strategies after they heard each song. Good job! The second class, after hearing a little too much noise AND such a low draft completion rate, did not get to listen to the songs. Instead of listening to each song and then writing down the strategy I had written on the chart, they just wrote down the chart all at once. Then I reviewed the introduction structure. And then, in order to help them be good writers, I took the time to model writing an introduction myself. I chose a topic at random, one that no students were using. Out loud I explained my steps, and then when it was complete, I went back and labeled each of the three parts. I thought it went well.

Until! I began walking around to see how they were doing with their own intros. They ALL used the same opening strategy I did, and more than a handful copied the beginning of my second sentence as well. That really irritated me, and I let them know. I told them that copying me is *really* not going to help them, and it's not okay to not think for themselves.

So for my third class, though they have more trouble with writing, I did not model my own intro. I showed them the structure, and discussed orally things I might include with my pretend topic, but I purposely did not write or say a 'hook.' A few minutes later, while circulating, I saw the handful of kids not really doing anything, and a good number who were starting with a thesis (which is fantastic! they can write a thesis! but now they need to put it in the right place), AND a good number who created interesting opening sentences!

At the end of the last two classes, I reminded them that every day, they have an opportunity to succeed. Even if they didn't do homework the day before, they can still do their job tonight. I asked the class, so how many people are planning to complete this second draft tonight? And so they all raised their hands, and goggled at the students whose hands didn't go up fast enough. Heh.

Wish us all luck, man.

Tomorrow is peer review and final drafts will be due Thursday. Then it will be time for the test crunch! Woohoo!


Anonymous said...

I know this is going to sound crazy ... so bear with me ... but I get so set in a 'groove' that when Holiday breaks end (today), I'm so out-of-sorts I find myself wishing throughout the day we never had a break to begin with.

I suppose I truly am a creature of habit. :-(

Teachteach said...

The danger of modeling is always what you describe here--that students will just copy your model. However, you could try having them work cooperatively to create examples of several different types of openings and then share and evaluate those with the whole class. That way, they get some practice, see some models, and are less likely to get wedded to one particular example. I think modeling is really important for students, but it is a tricky thing to do.