Students will be able to analyze structure, rhyme, meter, and meaning of poetry.
The past few days have been surprisingly exhausting for the little effort I have put forth. The students looked at poems in their workbooks, so I didn’t have to make copies (both our copy machines took multi-day vacations this week), and we did a ton of work orally. I entered a few grades here and there, but basically we’ve been working on picking out things like alliteration and figuring out what they mean. Today they finished the unit with a rather difficult test. One of my new students asked me beforehand, “Is this test going to be hard?” I ignored him, because seriously, what do I answer? It was a hard test. I actually tested them on what things like alliteration and personification mean in a poem, rather than just underlining them. There was also a section where they had to scan two lines of iambic pentameter with the proper stressed and unstressed markings. We only went over that three days in a row.
Glancing at the exams as they came in, students appeared to do very poorly. While all the work we did in class was good, I failed to adequately prepare them to apply the skills they learned…and that is not good at all. This is why so many of our kids did so poorly on the state exams; the exams no longer ask kids to identify imagery in a story, but rather to explain how the imagery enhanced the author’s theme. I think because I am not sure how to teach this cognitive application, I’ve inadvertently skipped it, to the demise of my students’ poetry grade. My other issue has been a sudden epidemic of absences; I’ve had between three and six students absent in every period this week, many for multiple days in a row. I had four different students who have missed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week show up today when we were taking a test. A few of them I excused to do make up work today and take the exam tomorrow, but it is extremely frustrating to not get the attendance necessary to keep kids in the loop. And where I pity them is the fact that English is probably one of their easiest classes – how do they keep up in chemistry, geometry, or Spanish?
I’m pretty sure certain students in my last period class cheated to some extent on the test. If they didn’t talk to each other, they did their utmost to distract each other. One girl declared loudly someone farted, so she sprayed perfume all around her person, stinking up the entire classroom. Another decided that my music wasn’t to her liking (Handel’s Water Music) and asked me to turn it off (loudly), while two two others shouted over her that they loved this song, please turn it up. It was not a proper test atmosphere, but by the time I reach seventh period, I kind of give up any will to maintain my classroom.
I had a bunch of students decide that the last page was too hard and turn in their tests with it blank; one by one I sent them back to their seats with a few hints, informing them I knew they could do better. I have a whole slew of students who decide that that 70% is “good enough” and they basically do 70% of their work, knowing they’ll pass…despite the fact that they could easily have 95% at least if they tried for two seconds. A few attempted to turn their test in two or three times before I accepted it. I realize no one does this in the real world – no college professor will say, “This paper isn’t good enough, fix it.” He’ll just give you the F and move on with his life. I’m hoping that my insistence on the right work will help the kids know that I think they can do it, and eventually convince them that they can as well, and that doing the work right is what’s important. I hope. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but it’s the beginning of a new semester; I suppose it’s easier to think that this round will go better?