Sunday, February 1, 2009

Day Nineteen!

Today was the first day of taking over everything, four classes complete. Before I started teaching I spent the first period planning with Anne and getting to see other parts of AHS. I finally visited the art department and found the butcher paper, which was essential to my activities with my juniors.

Second period I went to another English Literature class that was studying similar things to what I am teaching to my English Literature class with the afterlife. The teacher started off class reflecting on what happened in class the previous night, which I then incorporated into my classes later that day. It is really fun going into other classrooms because that allows me to actually see what other people are doing and then incorporate that into my own lessons. The students were a little over enthusiastic today, for some reason, and the teacher handled it really well. She went over the homework for the day right at the start of the lesson, which then set the tone for the entire lesson. She answered individual questions about the homework while going around the room, but she also addressed major concerns with the whole class in relation to the homework. It was really good for me to see how she transitioned in both body position and voice from the whole class to individual students while giving these instructions. After that she went through effective summary-response paper thesis statements with the students in multiple formats. She also gave an example of each format too, but she did not ask the students for an example. Then again, this is a college prep class and the students are all seniors so if they have questions they should probably ask. Her next activity was to use the Dante reading they had been doing in class and write a summary-response paper thesis. The neat part was that this is not a laptop classroom; instead, it is a normal classroom with desks in rows. The teacher handed out note cards and then had the students write their thesis statements on the note cards. After they did, and then they did a peer review and edit by passing the note cards around or getting up and finding a friend, a gallery walk is what she called it. One thing at really caught my eye was that one student asked a question while the teacher was giving whole class instruction, she answered it, and then after the discussion broke into small group time the teacher made it a point to go over to that student and make sure that he understood her answer. Some times I feel that students agree with my answer to a question just so they do not have to look unintelligent in front of the classroom. This may have been the case here, but I really think this was just an example of good teaching. After the gallery walk activity the teacher transitioned into Dante and reading aloud another canto. She had the students physically move their desks into a circle, which I thought was a great idea to have discussion. She then asked for volunteers to read and she got a few takers, which was great, and then after they finished she told the readers, “Thank you for reading for me.” It really made me consider how am I thanking those that read? Am I? I reflected and realized that I am thanking people for reading, but I need to more of an intentional job of doing that, including using student names in the response. During the reading she usually stayed outside of the circle, which I thought was a little odd; because I thought she should really strive to be part of the circle as that would give off more the idea of an equal with the students. Instead, she sat outside the circle on the teacher desk. This is not something wrong; it is just a different style than I am used to. It seemed to work for her though, so that is the important part. Then she would jump from outside the circle to walking around right in the middle of the circle to expound on a point or ask a question. At the end of the period she had a really interesting wrap-up activity. I got the idea that every day she did some sort of wrap up idea of her teaching for that day, today she had the students read their favorite passage of Dante thus far. To do this, though, she had the students stand up when they had their passage and then she called on students to read their passage. When they were done reading, if two people had the same passage, then they would both sit down and so on until the last person read. Two things I noticed about this activity. One, it was great to hear all the students read their passages, but I did not really understand how this was a wrap-up activity. What I mean is that having students reflect on and read their favorite passage was a good idea and it made them think critically, but how did it wrap up the learning? In my classes, if there is time left, I usually teach right to the bell and ask the students to write a summary of what they have read so far and then we share and discuss it as the bell is ringing. The activity could have been improved if she would have had the students read the passage and then reflect on why it is their favorite or how it connects to major motifs and themes. Two, the other big thing about this activity was that the teacher wrapped up her ideas and the class while neglecting one student that was slightly out of her line of vision. Instead of looking all throughout the room to make sure that everyone was done, she assumed that everyone was done on one side of the room and then finished up the other side. When in all reality she forgot to call on one student. That student was a little disappointed that he did not get called on, and his friends made sure to rub it in too as the teacher gave the final instructions of the period. It was a great period to watch and I learned a lot about excitement, energy, and how to teach reading in a class. I look forward to applying some of those ideas to my own English Literature class in the future.

After this class my busy Friday finally started. I first taught my 10th graders who are coving Macbeth. They had to take a vocabulary quiz and then do some independent reading time. During independent reading time I went around and checked off a simple assignment, what I pictured as a simple assignment at least. Well it turns out that a handful of students thought that they did not have to do that assignment, which is just crazy. One student in particular thought that since she is memorizing the words right on the page she does not have to create flash cards or do exercises in the packet to remember them. In addition, she brought up the fact that she is acing all the quizzes so why should she go through some extra work just to help her re-remember the words that she learned another way. I struggled with this concept. I know it is important for her to do some sort of activity with these words to understand and get them, but she is doing well on the quizzes. She found out the most effective way for her to study and just because it is not like everyone else do I have to punish her for that? It will be a discussion I will have to have with Kristin when she returns. Class went a lot faster then I thought it would, but then two twenty minute activities and that is already forty minutes of class taken up. That does not leave a lot of time for other instruction. It was really good to see how that class went today and I am excited to begin covering Act II this week and get the students up front and acting. It will be great fun.

Right after the 10th graders I switch classrooms and moved into a room filled with seniors. This is the class that Anne and I had a little discussion over last week and that I have had to catch up. If you want to read her side of the Tuesday story click here. Anyway, I have been in the process of catching them up, which at times has been a challenge as I have pointed out here. I want to push them through content, but at times I feel that I am rushing through the conversation part. These students are so good at the conversation aspect and I do not want to rob them of that part of the class and I feel like they learn a lot from that type of a classroom. However, when there is so much material to get through I struggle with wrapping up the discussion and moving on with the other activities. Such was the problem with class today. The first activity was to wrap up their career projects that they turned in via their Wikispaces. It was really good to get constructive feedback from the students about what we should do with the class and the project next time, but overall I think it took a little longer then I planned or hoped it would. This pushed right into our next activity and then into Dante. We got through the background material and then just the first few lines of Canto One. Anne keeps telling me to treat this class like a college prep class, which at times is really scary because these students are not in college yet, nor would I want to be some of the college professors that I have had in the past. Therefore, I always imagine making it a college prep class that I would like to go to every day, and that is the image that I try to picture and motivate myself to when planning and covering the material. It was a good period, overall, because I was able to get through most of the material that I was hoping to get through. I was able to connect with the students and challenge them with the content. Like the teacher I watched second period, I was able to get the students into a big circle and then discuss Dante, which was really helpful. I made sure that I was part of the circle, but at times I got up and walked around the middle of the circle to make a point. I hope this was effective, but at the same time that it was not over bearing. I will have to find out on Monday. It was a good period though.

Fifth period I went to Kristin’s American Literature class for the second time in over two weeks. Due to a day off and Anne being gone and me teaching all her classes it has been really hard to make it to their class. That being said, I was there on Wednesday and then took over the class for Friday. That is the fourth class I have picked up and it is also the last one that I will handle too. So it was really nice from that standpoint to finally take over and get a sense of teaching my last prep class. The students are covering The Narrative of Frederick Douglass so today we talked about dehumanization and what that looks like with slavery and with the text. After that we did a partner sharing activity related to the text and then they broke up into groups and looked at the key elements from the first chapters of the text. They worked really hard in groups and I let them pick their groups, which was a compromise because I gave them fifteen seconds to find a group and sit down, otherwise I was going to choose the groups for them. It worked out ok, but I did have to split one group up to make the right amount of groups. They worked really hard on this activity, and they were synthesizing information really well. How I teach this class will continue to grow and evolve over the next few weeks. At one point in their partner sharing activity I asked if they were done and no one responded so I move on. Well I heard this, “Mr. Ruggles, you are moving too quickly please slow down.” The transition from seniors to juniors will be one that I will have to continually be cognisant of and make sure that I am being fair to each group equally.

I ended the day with my ninth graders, which as always was entertaining and fun at the same time. We started the period going over structure of their first paragraphs, I cut apart a first paragraph and handed out parts and required the students to put the correct parts back together in order. I thought this activity would help them understand what is going on within their first paragraphs. It did help, but at the end of the day they are maybe two sentences further on their first paragraphs. Plus, the other frustrating part is that only about half of the students actually turned in a paragraph start at all. Where are their first paragraphs? I struggle because I feel like I have covered so much material in class that they just need time to work on their first paragraphs and for Anne and me to assist them with their work. I am excited to give them that time on Monday, because after looking through their first paragraphs they need the time.

My take away for the day is just that I made it. One day down of teaching four different classes, for different age groups, all in a row. It was a lot of fun, but exhausting overall. I got through it and that is an accomplishment. I look forward to next week and getting in the groove of the classes, figuring out how they are all different, and then tailoring my grading and instruction to those new ideals. Next week will be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to learning more and continuing to change the world one fifty-nine minute period at a time.