Daily Objective: Student will be able to recognize and describe characteristics of the main characters in chapter 1 of TKAM and identify meanings of unfamiliar words in the chapter.
Long post for what felt like a very long day…
My Hubster is active duty military, and just finished up the week-long Master Resiliency Training course, which teaches soldiers and families how to maintain a positive attitude, problem solve, and prevent relational conflicts.
One of the exercises they do is called “Hunt the Good Stuff,” where each student has to share three good things that happened to them since the last class. It can be something simple, like “I woke up today,” or cynical like “I’m almost done with this stupid class,” but by the end of the course I think people start to see real good things in their lives, and focus less on the bad. Hubster suggested I try this on my kids, kind of a “Pows and Wows” or Highs/Lows activity to get anything off their chests. I could definitely see the benefits to this, so I decided to try it in that weird time between when most of them get into the classroom but before the first bell rings and they’re officially “mine.”
I said I couldn’t start class until they told me three good things. I wish I could ask each person, but with an average of 24 students per class that would take all my 53 minutes. So I just asked for three good things.
I got “Tomorrow’s Friday” – in all six classes, shocker. “It’s last period” – another big surprise, not. “I’m going to the doctor” – the implication that she gets to miss class, but I turned it into “She’s healing, excellent.”
Okay, so Hunt the Good Stuff wasn’t overly successful today, but they weren’t used to it. I’ll keep it up, it’s only a 30-second activity, and see how it goes. In one class I just asked for adjectives describing how they felt – “awesome,” “sleepy,” “lame” all got called out, and then my new student who was added yesterday said, “I’ve got one – ebullient.”
HUGE silence. I didn’t know what that word meant, or the slightest idea how to spell it. What this girl is doing in my grade-level English class is beyond me. I wanted to kick her next door to pre-AP, or better yet, to the end of the hall to real senior AP.
“Ebullient”? The official definition is “overflowing with fervor, enthusiasm, or excitement.” I attempted to spell it on the board and one of my boys (they all sound the same when my back is turned) called, “You a science teacher, Mrs. H? ‘Cus they can’t spell either.”
She spelled it for me, and I awarded her adjective of the day. It’s a new award, I just made it up sixth period, but I think I’ll keep it. I’m going to dream up cool prizes, in hopes that if I leave out a dictionary they’ll take the hint and start digging.
Today we started To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m trying to read as much as possible in class, both for my slower readers and to make sure everyone stays on track. So many of my kids are in athletics or band or work or just have such a crummy home life that I’m realizing homework doesn’t happen, and it seems cruel of me to insist on outside reading that I know won’t get done. I feel like I’d be setting them up to fail.
I bought the audiobook so I didn’t have to read it six times, and I also found the text on the internet and copied it into a word document. I put it up on the projector screen, turned on reader view, and increased the text so everyone could see it. They all still have a physical copy of the book, but many preferred to watch the screen while we listened to the CD.
This had several pluses: it forced them to keep their eyes up, rather than that clever head-in-hand-over-book curl that LOOKS like you’re reading while you’re actually sleeping. I also allowed them to get up and sit on the floor if they felt sleepy, and several took me up on that. Finally, when I paused it to make a note on the text, I could either highlight it from my computer or point to it on the screen – none of the “Does everyone know where I’m at?” “Which page? Where?” nonsense.
Many of those that preferred to read silently plugged headphones into their phones and tuned the rest of us out. For the first time in a small way, I felt like I had successfully differentiated my instruction. I also offered some of the more fidgety kids that chance to sit in my swively desk chair at my computer, to click when the page turned. This was good, because by the time I had heard chapter one of TKAM for the sixth time, I had seriously zoned out. They especially liked when Boo Radley stabbed his dad with scissors, and enjoyed finding out that the sentence “…and because of Simon Finch’s industry, Atticus was related by blood or by marriage to most everyone in town” involved some innuendo. One class learned the definition of innuendo.
The only downside of having the words on the screen is that suddenly about 15 of the 27 copies of TKAM floating around the room were now no longer necessary.
By second period the novels to start flowing to one desk and the owner of that desk to started constructing an elaborate tower of them. I’m watching him do this, he knows I know he’s doing this, but thinks that because I’m not saying anything I don’t care. I’m secretly planning to keep him one minute into passing period to make him put them all back, because I have exactly 4 extra minutes in this period outside of the CD, and I don’t want to disrupt my class. Conveniently, his desk got bumped and the tower crashed to the floor, so I could take the moment to say, “Feel free to stay after to pick those up.” He did, hung his head melodramatically, and stayed without complaint.
They are good kids. What really made me suppress a chuckle was when seventh period started doing the same thing, although their mini-book fort was slightly sturdier and bore a post-it note declaring “No girls allowed.” I bet if I head over the elementary school jump rope courts, Miss Susie and her Boyfriend will still be Kissing in the D-A-R-K-D-A-R-K-DARK! DARK! DARK! Nothing new under the sun, apparently…
Despite the silent mischief, what did actually bother me today was that while taking attendance in one period, one of my girls was unexpectedly absent. When I asked if anyone had seen her, her friend goes, “Oh, it’s her birthday.”
“She takes off for her birthday?”
“Yeah, everyone does.”
Okay, I wasn’t miffed that she took off for her birthday. I sure wish I would’ve been able to take off for my birthday! I was miffed about having spent ten whole minutes on the first day of school explaining why you should inform me in advance of planned absences. A bunch of other students told me Monday they would be gone Friday, and already have their work in hand. Since we started chapter one today, she’ll already be behind tomorrow, and can’t do tomorrow’s work until she reads it, putting her behind again. I don’t want them behind, I want them ahead and on task and rocking out. I asked her friend if her birthday was the same day every year, or if this one came unexpectedly. I must try to not take out my frustration on her when she returns. It IS her birthday, and sixteen is an important one, I guess.
Today was also fire drill day, and it was not a pleasant experience.
One, we had to trek out into the Texas grass, and so many burrs caught on my pantyhose that my last decent pair is now ruined.
Two, I forgot the laminated green card I’m supposed to hold up if all my kids are present, so I got a gentle reminder for that.
Three, I lost six precious minutes of TKAM listening time, so they missed Jem sprinting to touch the Radley House and now that period is behind.
Four, something didn’t work right, so they spent an hour after school testing the alarm, which was supremely obnoxious for those of us lesson planning.
But when I hunt the good stuff…the test alarms did force me to go home before 5 o’clock for the first time this week! Positive!