My week was broken up a bit by a short stint in the jury pool for my county. I was not selected, so I only missed a day.
In addition to my prep duties, I also cover a class for the first half hour of the day while teachers meet in grade-levels to do what’s called common planning. It’s part of our implementation of Data Wise. This is the time our intermediate classes have their ELD block, so I get to cover that in one of the classrooms. I am anticipating using the lab for this, but for right now, I’m teaching “nekkid” in the classroom. It’s a good feeling, because there are some participation and discussion techniques that work better at desks than at computers. It’s nice to see I can manage without the technology, even as I look forward to adding a bit of it to their routine. I’m mostly doing the regular morning routine in other classes which is okay, but not worth writing here about.
The students are continuing work on their VoiceThread on sounds and letters by adding sound describing the letters, words and sounds. I’m trying to figure out how to proceed after we finish the short vowels. Do I want to take a sound approach, or go to the alphabet hitting the consonants? I’m leaning towards sounds, which would mean long vowels, digraphs, blends, etc. Any suggestions from primary or early reading types is appreciated! I’ll check in with my first grade team too.
Storytelling moved on to fables, another “lesson-based” genre. This week doesn’t have much to share, so I’ll say I’m more excited about next week, when we’ll do folk tales. I’m doing Ananzi (another story on Discovery Streaming) which is a “trickster” story from Africa. I will then read “Piecing Earth and Sky Together” which is Mien (Laos) folk tale. The document camera makes read-alouds from books much more do-able in the lab. I love both of these stories, and they are really culturally appropriate for our school.
This week’s theme was about having friends of different ages, and I started with a video of “Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge”, a very sweet story of a little boy and his older friend who is “losing her memory”. I then showed another video “Crow Boy” that was a Japanese story about a poor boy from the outskirts of a rural village and how he didn’t fit in at school, until a teacher recognized his worth and intelligence.
Most of the kids watched and seem to take in the story. One class though displayed some really inappropriate behavior (rather, a handful of students did), laughing at the character in the video. For a variety of reasons (some environmental, some organic) a small number of students in any school (like say, Rutgers?) have problems with empathy. My first reaction when this happens is like any normal person, I’m horrified, but it’s what you do next that can either get the kids on the right path, or simply marginalize them more. I notified their teacher and we’re going to look at the video and talk to the students about why it’s not appropriate to laugh in those situations. You can’t just tell them, what you did is awful, you have to show and explain WHY. I’ve also worked with older students who have this problem. I tell them to look around, and when they see other classmates aren’t laughing, that’s a clue that it’s not appropriate. This teaches them a skill. I talk to support staff, so they can intervene and provide extra support to the students in developing social skills. It’s easy to write these students off as budding psycho-paths/bullies, but I’ve found that most of these kids have some empathy and caring, which suggests they be brought to more appropriate behaviors.
We didn’t do any writing, sorry, but I did show them scenes from the climax of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We discussed the various risks the characters take, and how they work together as a team, using the skills that each of them excel at to reach their goal. This worked really well. Considering how old the movie is, I was surprised at how many kids said they had seen it, but perhaps they meant more recent installments. I think having kids look at “success” but to break down what makes it work so they can see and learn is really important. When showing a popular movie like this it’s important not to just let the film run, but ask questions to clarify and check for understanding. For more on this, I’ll point to Mathew Needleman post on The Right Way to Show Movies in Class.
I’m not kidding, I changed this lesson about three times over last weekend. I was reviewing my reader, and kept coming across great picture based Web 2.0 activities. I finally settled on PicLits. Below is a really great example of thinking (although the grammar is not perfect).
Here are the rest.
This week I had students working on coming up with a tag line for their soon-to-be Motivator posters. They did a good job. I find it really helpful, to have the students doing independent work, and calling them back one at a time to work on their writing. Since most of what I have them do is short, I can get this done pretty easily in a period. I only have half the comments up now, but the rest will be there soon. I’ll be happy to finish this up with them!