Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Excellent Lesson

Gah, I've been meaning to post, I promise. But all the new shiny tv shows and the sleepy, well, they kept me distracted.

Today was kind of slow. I've been staying after school for a few minutes to get things ready for the next day--finishing homework grading, writing the new assignment and objectives, little stuff like that. It's really helping me feel productive and mature; you know, I'm actually planning ahead or something. So anyway, today I had a prep, taught two periods, prep, another two teaching, another prep, and one last teaching period. It was too slow and kind of boring with all those breaks; I do better when everything's all in a row. I get all hyped up and then sit down with a tired sigh of satisfied relief at the end of the day. I'll get that tomorrow, my six period day.

Okay, so anyway, the teaching! Get this.

Last night's homework had the kids summarize their three favorite books. My purpose was to get them practicing summarizing and also assess that skill. [Many of them ignored the directions--shocker--and wrote about why they liked the book.]

Today's warm up asked them to choose one favorite and explain why. [Many of them, you guessed it, summarized the book. Sigh.]

In reading workshop, I read them Princess Smartypants, which is one of my favorites. Then I showed them Somebody Wanted But So, which is from some education book. I could look it up, but, come on. Way too lazy for that. I prompted them to fill it in; I wrote it on the board. They totally got it and did well. From there they read independently and then summarized their own books so far. And they did it! They did it well, too! I was happy and impressed!

Then in writing workshop, we reviewed friendly letter format and they wrote a letter recommending a book to a friend. I gave them paragraph specifications (first P an intro of the book, second P a summary, third P their opinions, fourth P conclusion/questions) and they got to work quickly and quietly. Again, they did really well! Tomorrow they'll finish first drafts and write second drafts and then we'll move on.

But, see?! See how everything all fit together and prefaced or reinforced everything else? Isn't that AWESOME?! That so rarely happens, even though coaches and admin will tell you it should happen every day. NOT SO. Because hello, you have genre writing you are required to do, not to mention working on grammar and vocabulary and other things. Argh. Anyway.

So this planning and making more of an effort is making me feel good.

What is not making me feel good is seeing a girl who yesterday transferred to a different class. I asked how things were going. She said, "It's hard! Not easy like your class; we're doing big essays and stuff!"

?!?! Easy?! My class?!

I tried to remember that I'm taking my time with set up (today was only my SECOND actual reading workshop with reading aloud and an actual reading lesson), and I've been doing smaller writing lessons and activities to prepare and set up for later, bigger writing projects. Also, I've had such bad experience with lack of homework and bad classwork that I don't want to jump into big things that kids can slack on.

I have to say, homework turning-in is still probably the highest it's been in all four of my years. And everyone in class works quietly (well, okay obviously not every single kid, but the goof offs are much fewer in number and not nasty or loud and disruptive--SO FAR--like they've been in the past) and I am already seeing lots of improvement in their work.

So I'm trying to tell myself that I'm scaffolding and supporting and that with a slower start like this, the more difficult parts of class will go better.

Although our first grammar quiz was today, and I don't think they did well at all, even though it's exactly the same thing we've done for three days in class. Next week there will be a vocabulary quiz. I don't think anyone's going to say things are easy after this! They're going to see some bad grades and be like, oh, whoops! I have to actually PAY ATTENTION!

Also, next week we'll begin working on four squares and essays. One of the first things I want to do is assign a research paper on countries not known to them. A neighboring teacher found a full set of 1960s encyclopedias in her room and gave them to me. I want to use them and get the kids working on note taking, NOT plagiarizing, and expository writing. God knows they need that. Talk about a skill that they need!


Nancy said...

I've had kids say the same thing to me. The teacher that they say is "hard" doesn't actually teach. The kids write these looooong essays and most of them are plagiarized! The kids don't really learn anything. So, I would take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes "hard" just means lots of work, and has nothing to do with the quality of teaching.

And I believe "Somebody Wanted But So" is Kylene Beers, When Kids Can't Read. Either that, or Mosaic of Thought by Keene and Zimmerman.

X said...

SWBS is from KB. I whipped that book out again this week, and I can't believe I went a couple of years without utilizing it. It flat out saved my ass during my first year of teaching.

I second what Nancy wrote about Mr./Ms. Long Essay. Definitely willing to bet that that's what's going on. I know those kinds of assignments because I see my kids get them in science and social studies some years.

And, um...if your class is getting off to a slow start, then mine must be REALLY slow. I read your long posts and I am amazed with all the awesome activities you're already doing. And yeah, hello, we should definitely be doing work now that's scaffolding what we want to do later in the year, so poo on anyone who thinks your class is easy. My kids are writing literary essays next month, and if they're not spending September talking about read alouds and independent reading all the time and writing shorter responses in their notebooks, gradually learning how to make all of that deeper and more substantial, then literary essay is going to be (a) painful to teach and (b) ineffective anyway.