Monday, November 10, 2008


So, yeah. The Julius Caesar test? Not so good. But here's the thing: how many of the students, do you think, feel this way?

I bet most of them think that they really did do their best. The problem, of course, wasn't that their best wasn't good enough - it's that the test wasn't fair. Or I'm a bad teacher. Or (this one killed me) they don't need to know how to understand what they read if they're going to be an engineer or a veterinarian. Or just because "this is stupid." Or a combination of any/all of that.

Something along those lines, anyway.

Anyway, this particular Demotivator illustrates MY current feelings.

I do feel like a bad teacher. I mean, when the average test score between two classes is 58%, something is wrong.

These aren't horrible children. They come in and at least don't shout at each other all period. There's no physical violence. They at least pretend to pay attention.

They were provided with two copies of the play - original Shakespeare and a modern version. We watched a film version of the play. We read the Shakespeare aloud. They worked on study guide questions in groups (though I heard a lot more about what they did last weekend or what they were going to do this weekend). They did role-playing exercises to demonstrate the importance of context, tone, and gestures. There was more, but the more I think about it, the worse my mood gets.

Because little to none of it seems to have mattered.

At this point, we have to move on. I'm going to present the dramatic techniques in starters. We'll mini-review them several times a week. We can review figurative language and literary elements as we study our novels.

And the worst part is, I can't identify the source of the problem. Was I being too hard on them? I've shown the test to several other teachers, who didn't think so. Was it my teaching? I presented the material as thoroughly and interestingly as I could. Or I thought I did.

What could I have done differently to help them learn the skills and concepts they need to?

Image thanks to


Dr Pezz said...

Now before I ask my question, I want to state that I do not always think students will perform well no matter what we do. However, because of the low average in both classes, my question is: what was done while the students read the play (or listened to the play)?

I know I spend almost an entire month reading the first three acts, and then we watch the final two. During that time I have to stop every 3-10 lines and have the students orally summarize and explain the importance of the lines read. Time consuming and tedious at times, but it's the only way I've ever really had success with this play.

I usually try to memorize a speech when we start the play and deliver it to the students. The last two years I used "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things..." which drew the kids right in. It was actually kinda fun. :)

Anyway, I'm curious what you did while reading the play. This was the most difficult aspect of JC for me. I can't say I feel it's the perfect method, but I've had some success this way.

By the way, I really like how you are going through the persuasive techniques with the students. I tried this in small groups as we read, which helped (a bit) and then I have review guides for every act for the small groups. Not perfect but helps me work with the students, lets me facilitate rather than directly instruct.

Also, do you have to move on, or can you do some more review and retest? Maybe ask the kids what happened and try again? Or, are you forced to move on? Just a thought.

Dr Pezz said...

I was thinking about your post again today. I gave a writing assignment, which we had reviewed and discussed--true discussion, not just teacher talks and students listen--and the students BOMBED it. I didn't even grade them after I read the first 5 or 6. I will just hand them back tomorrow and have another session about the assignment. Grrr. There go my plans for tomorrow.

Clix said...

I haven't tried asking them to summarize what we've read - usually I try to ask a question or two about it. I don't know if we stop that often, but it feels like it takes forever to get through it!

How important is it to read through the play out loud? I mean, it's... I hate it. They said it'd help, but the ones who were reading were stumbling through their parts, and the ones who weren't reading were only pretending to pay attention... I felt like they LIED to me because they knew it'd be a lovely way to waste time.

Dr Pezz said...

I use an audio version on my computer played through the speakers. We read the first scene aloud, and then we use the professionally read version the rest of the way. The kids take notes as we chat, and I give the students a chart of all the literary terms we study, so they can find examples as we go.

You know, (as I start thinking about teaching this unit next semester) I also have a Shakespearean insult contest before we begin the unit. It's awesome!

Have you ever tried this? There's a sheet with columns of terms to combine. The kids love it. This helps me get the kids into the unit.

Dr Pezz said...

I found a link with the columns:

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