Monday, January 12, 2009

Running around like...

So last Friday's lesson went well. Today's lesson went... well, not terribly poorly, but not so well. I don't think we can do reading workshop and writing workshop on the same day. There's just too much to do.

Today, for example, we did a grammar starter, looking at three model sentences for prepositions & capitalization/punctuation & writer's intent. Silly me, I thought it MIGHT take ten minutes. O no. It takes 15-20. AAAURGH.

So then I extend SSR time, because there's really not much point in having, say, 5 minutes of reading. It's way too easy to fake. Half an hour into the period, we start the minilesson, which is feedback on their friendly letters, which they did for homework due Friday and I gave back today. (Supposedly.) Maaaybe a quarter of the students turned them in. (There is definitely a "you can't flunk all of us" mentality here - although I don't sense resistance, just... inertia, really.) Anyway. So after explaining that I want the letters to be more personal and use specific details & examples, I model writing a letter to the dear BRAT who is insisting that I read a BORING BOOK!

I can't believe it took me as long as it did. It was like … fifteen minutes JUST for the letter! And then we discussed it – what I did and why, and how I might've made it better. Another five minutes there. Yikes!

So then we started "The Last Dragonboy," which SHOULD have been an easy read. Apparently not so much. They chose small groups (another five minutes there) and read it round-robin, out loud to their group. While they did that, I paced the room, encouraging them to stay on task and saying things like, "well, instead of telling me what you DON'T know, tell me what you DO know! whose story is it? what does he want? why?" and such. That sort of thing goes well, and the super-reluctant ones kind of got back into the story. But I feel like if I get into a conversation of any length, the group across the room is goofing off.

The IDEA, then, is for the groups to create mini-posters for terms (like dialogue, conflict, protagonist) that include the term, the definition (on the board!), an example, the name of the source the example's from, and a brief explanation of how we know the example fits the term. By this time we are EASILY an hour into the period, and bugger it all, I didn't remind them to write down their homework assignment, nor did I explain how what we're doing fits in with the standards, or go over our Focus Question (I've always thought that "Essential Question" – which is what we're SUPPOSED to call it – sounds incredibly pretentious).

At this point I'm merrily cussing inside my brain, and trying to remember that they're supposed to write the first 20 prepositions on our list from memory before the period ends, so, like… fiveish minutes before the bell, they've MAYBE gotten one mini-poster done, so I tell them we'll come back to it, hang onto those, I collect the markers and the stories, they put the desks back in order and get out notebook paper and something to write with and start scratching away...

UGH! Of course the bell rings and they're not done. Maybe that's a good thing, because all of them except for one student out of both classes stayed AFTER the bell, presumably to keep working! So as long as I don't do that regularly, they'll be used to working bell-to-bell.

Tomorrow's reading assignment has been scratched; I'll use mini-lesson time to go over a few more literary techniques - these SHOULD be review - and then have them read the story some more and continue working on the mini-poster. I'm keeping the performance read of "The Southpaw" for Wednesday - developing a strong read-out-loud voice is one of my main goals for this semester. And then Thursday I'm going to scrap the story and just workshop their business & friendly letters all period.

I think I need to have something on the board that says "today during workshop your job is to da da da." Only filling in the das.

We'll see how it goes.

Image thanks to and


roller coaster teacher said...

How long is your class period? I would love to have around 60 to 80 minute blocks. We have 40 minutes. In 40 minutes, I expect to get one task done, like one lesson with one practice.

Writing their workshop task on the board sounds good!

Clix said...

We have 90-minute blocks in semester classes - so the students I'm working with now I've had for three days so far.

loonyhiker said...

I write the essential question on the board and that is the first thing I read at the beginning of the period so I can get it out of the way. Then I also write a tentative agenda so I don't forget anything. This helps me stay on track. I love your mini poster ideas though and it sounds like the kids were engaged so in my mind, that is more important that the "hoops" we have to jump through.

Clix said...

I have a printout of my lesson plan at hand so I can look over what I've said I'm going to cover and how much time I have left. ;)

I need to start developing good habits as far as predictability in format, so that the students know what to expect.

Mr. McGuire said...

Every day I plan my reading workshop block to the minute, and every day I do not follow it. I keep trying, but I always have to leave something out.

And then there are the days when we get into an interesting discussion during read aloud, or students are really into an assignment...

I just keep reminding myself that as long as they are learning and working hard, they will get there in the end.

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