Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Maybe this is progress?

I forgot to post yesterday, but it did go better. Of course, in both classes key instigators/followers were absent.

Also, I let them do some interesting, investigative work. Each group got a New York Times, and they had to figure out how it was organized, and why (which they totally understood right away--yay!), then make a list of sections. We had to discuss how you can tell what a 'section' is. (A lot of students wanted Weather to be a section, even though it's a single page.) They got that there was a title on the front page, and all the articles dealt with the topic, and as I kept prodding them, someone finally noticed the letters and numbers in the corners. So at least they learned that valuable life skill.

I had to explain the "Metro" section--that it's not a section all about the train. (And do you know that when I asked my last class about it today, more than one of them said it WAS about the train?) I asked where Superman lived. "Metropolis!" they chorused. What was a Greek city called? They didn't know that yet, but it's a polis. "Metropolis" just means "city." So what about the word "Metropolitan"? Related to the city, and when people say "the metropolitan area" it means the city and the nearby areas too. So, in other words, what would they call the Metro section? Local news!

We also talked about 'importance.' I asked them to think about what is important, according to the newspaper, and how you can tell. Eventually they saw that the 'important' news was in the front, and the 'less important' stuff was toward the back.

Today we discussed a little bit more of that. I introduced them to the terms 'hard news' and 'soft news' and they had to look in their papers for three examples of each. They saw that the hard news is facts, while soft news has opinions.

They worked on a handout which showed two brief articles, and asked them to think about the main idea and what kind of news it was, and to prove it.

It seemed to go fairly well.

Except for the middle class today. Once they all got newspapers, they were all calling all over the place, and playing with the paper and clearly not being on task. I didn't want to deal with trying to corral them again and it was clear that they could not, as a large group, handle doing open hands-on activities.

So guess what I did? I removed the privilege of that hands-on activity. I gave them ten seconds to get all the desks into rows, and I made them take out the class set of grammar texts and we began to work on commas (which they all need to work on anyway). We just got the first exercise done, the dates and place names. (And they had all forgotten what a proper noun was, lazy uncapitalizing all over the place. Shame!)

We will continue with the grammar for at least a day, and if they work hard and quietly, then we will get back to the media stuff. But I will be very stingy with hands-on activities, and will pull them in a moment if I need to.

It's a shame, because the next activity should be really interesting. I want them to investigate the economic reality of newspapers, and count the ads in each section, comparing different sections (I have no idea what they'll find, but I have a hunch there will be something interesting to note), and also keeping track of what kinds of products or services are advertised where, and how often.

Very soon I do want to get into magazines as well. I've already got a big stash of magazines from myself and from last year's students. They can investigate the elements of magazines and look at ads and reviews, and then we can get into who owns what, and best of all, the ad types and techniques. That's my favorite!

Oh, so when the middle class left, I had them leave the desks in rows. When the afternoon class came in and sat down, I told them that the previous class couldn't handle the fun activity and so got to do grammar. I told them that they would have ONE chance to be working hard, cooperating, and on task.

Then, because I was cranky and also itchy to do something, I let the good tables start, very obviously. "I see that Table 4 is all quiet and ready, so they're going to start the activity right away."

I must say that I was happy with the class and their work/behavior, perhaps the warning at the beginning worked, or maybe the individual start times meant more kids wanting to participate and be on task (and those sometimes-lazy ones were on task! woo!), or maybe I was too worn out to be too harsh on them.

It's really hard to take each day one at a time, especially when different parts of the day require different energy levels and quick thinking and adaptation. The kids laugh when I gester vaguely and say things like, "Okay, gather the...thingamajigs at the...whatever-it's-called," but they sure know exactly to do--pile their notebooks at their tables. I'm too harried to always consume energy in recalling the precise names of things. Bah!

No comments: