Puzzle Pieces

tangerine.jpg I have been teaching the novel Tangerine for four or 5 years now. I’ve lost track – I could figure it out if I really wanted to, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that each year that I teach it I learn more about the story. I analyze it further and I pass that analysis onto the kids. I think last year was the first year that I really felt that my teaching of the novel was really good – that I imparted real analysis to the kids. This year I felt rushed in the middle of the book and was actually getting bored with it. Until today.

Some background: I teach reading. Reading and Language Arts take turns reading a novel so that the kids are not swamped with reading too many novels at once. This year Reading gets the first half of each quarter, while LA gets the second half. I hate having the first half because in the first quarter there are so many things we need to accomplish in the first week or so of school, that I don’t get to start the novel right away. That makes me feel rushed to finish the novel by midterm. I never actually do and I’m very lucky that my LA partner teacher and I work very well together and coordinate our book reading well.

So back to today. I actually skipped the whole second part of the book – well not skipped, but we didn’t discuss it deeply and we didn’t test on it. I did have the kids do a Who, What, Where, When, Why summary worksheet in groups and then I took those sheets and summarized Part 2 for them. It actually worked quite well. I was determined to finish the book this week (2 weeks after midterm). Originally I scheduled a test for Friday, then some school wide testing was thrown in for Thursday. So I changed it to a Final Project. The students have to complete a Story Plot Diagram, a Problem/Solution Graphic Organizer and a worksheet that I made where they have to analyze setting, symbols and quotes from the book. I spent yesterday and today reviewing and discussing Part 3. And wow! The kids blew me away – they were making connections from things that happened at the beginning of the book to the end of the book. I had to guide them somewhat, but after I showed one connection, they made more. They saw the pieces of the puzzle fit together. They got why the author showed us some things. At least the kids who actually finished the book did, but it was some of the most unlikely kids who were contributing some of the best ideas!

The project is due on Friday – I hope I have as much pleasure reading their work as I did discussing the book with them today!

8th Graders

First of all – wow! I haven’t posted since April 11th? Almost a month? I should be flogged LOL

Now on to my post……..

Lately my 8th graders have been really bad – well just a few of them – but they ruin it for everyone. With four weeks let in the school year I have decided that I was not going to fight them any longer. So I created a unit on Technology Careers that will keep them busy for the rest of the school year. They have something due each week and they have class time to work on it. On Thursday, they just wouldn’t stop talking while doing their typing (15 mins of silent typing at the beginning of each class) It took them 40 mins to all stop talking for any length of time. That left them 20 mins to work on their project. The first part is due at the end of class Monday (Friday was the 8th grade field trip so I gave them Monday for a due date). The biggest complainers were the kids who were talking! They seemed to think it was MY fault that they couldn’t work on their projects and when I pointed that out to them, they thought it was the funniest thing – that OF COURSE it was MY fault….sigh. Well, needless to say – I was very happy that I didn’t have to see them on Friday.

But I did see them tonight. Tonight was the 8th Grade Formal. Boy those kids clean up well! And they were so well behaved! I walked into the room at one point near the beginning and realized that there were no adults in the room except for the DJ. And do you know what those kids were doing? Sitting at tables or quietly talking in nice groups! They were being good! Overall, tonight was a really good night and the kids had a great time!

Damn I love those kids……sigh πŸ™‚

Pass The Popcorn, Please

Today I had 2 of my reading classes watch the TNT movie Animal Farm because I could relate it to Anthem. The 8th graders had science state tests today, so we kept our 1st hour students all morning. That also meant that I didn’t see two of my classes (one computer and one reading). Because 1st period was so long, that class completed the movie and the four questions I had for them. The questions were pretty general and I gave them a worksheet with the questions and a place to take notes on one side and lines on the other side for their complete answers. Animal Farm Movie Worksheet

I’m reading through 1st period’s answers and I’m pretty impressed. We did discuss the answers briefly after the movie, but I didn’t feed them any answers. I just clarified some things for them.

This whole experience is really opening my eyes to the idea that we get what we expect. Not that that is a new idea – I know that teacher expectations greatly impact student achievement. I even just read an article yesterday about a study that showed that students who were praised for their hard work put forth more effort and challenged themselves more than students who were praised for their intelligence (if I can locate that article again, I’ll link it here). My students keep telling me that Anthem is hard, and I keep telling them that I know it is, but that I wouldn’t give it to them unless I thought that they could handle it.

My kids are making really good connections about the conflict in Animal Farm and the theme of Collectivism vs. Individualism that we’re discussing with Anthem. They need help with their writing, but we’re working on that too πŸ™‚

It’s days like this that really make me feel like I’m reaching the kids πŸ™‚