They just did not get it … is a phrase constantly voiced in faculty and content meetings in schools everywhere. If they would have been taught to read better … unfortunately, comes next and sessions are saturated with negativity and lackluster approaches to truly helping children achieve more.
One of the greatest phrases I hear in response to this adult bickering which transitions the conversation back into helping children is as simple as … so what are we going to do about it?
The honest truth.
No student has ever come with every skills I desired as a teacher; I have high expectations. However, the reality is the prior teacher sent me the best students they had with whatever baggage that student was carrying with him. My opportunity is to make an impact on that child in their emotional, physical, spiritual and educational growth.
Part of that impact is taking time to step back and answering a personal call to that simple question … so what are we going to do about it?
Re-teach and discover
I think I have great instructional strategies!
But they do not always work for every child and that’s OK. Each child is unique in his and her own way of learning. That’s why sometimes you have to take a risk and teach a concept differently with the understanding it may not work either, but your students deserve that opportunity to master the “unattainable” skills.
This week was dedicated to new instructional activities for skills which were not mastered (80 percent my district), according to data in recent term assessment. My colleague and I scoured the internet to find what others were doing. We shared conversation about it over lunch. I reached out to my regular language arts blogs.
But we came up empty handed this time which is rare having the internet at your fingertips.
State What You Want Accomplished
In lieu of our defeat, we continued to share what we wanted them to be able to do as I flipped through a textbook and it came to us from seeing an image in a textbook.
Teach point of view through images! The cliche a picture is worth a thousand words ran rampant in our conversation.
Point of View through images
Common Core Standards integrates illustrations and visuals (i.e., print or digital text, video, multimedia) on many topics and the point of view standard was no different in my 8th grade classroom. To bring you up to speed with my classroom lesson, students were given a simple photo of a classroom setting (shown below). This image was chosen because students are experts on classroom settings and the way a student thinks.
The classroom discussion shifted towards simplicity of asking what they literally saw (no interpretations yet). Afterwards, students analyzed the character’s body language because often it tells us a lot. For a fun exercise, I offered a chance for students to act out certain body languages (i.e., flirting, anger, bored) without speaking to add some physical movement into the classroom which brought some laughter and built up their confidence.
Following a brief moment of identifying each individual with a character trait, creativity struck in by asking students to think of different scenarios that could be occurring in the situation that the characters find themselves. Students came up with numerous examples which were applicable. For instance, the one boy wanted to ask the other girl to a winter formal, the boy with the phone is texting his mom as his dad goes into surgery, and the girl in the pink is annoyed because her classmates are lacking effort in the classroom.
Unfortunately, with all the modeling, some students still needed a teacher’s model to really grasp what I was building up to. Utilizing the the boy in the tie from above, a model was presented to them shown below. However, I only initially showed them the first paragraph.
|Teacher Model: Tim fleetingly took notes, spending more time doodling on the sides of his notebook then really copying down facts. The time was passing so sluggishly, and he could not wait until the bell rang to release him from this prison called a classroom. Not that long ago, Tim relished being in school, meeting with his friends and planning where they were all going to go, but that night last week changed everything. No one talked to him anymore. He was a social pariah and there seemed to be no going back. If only he could go back and change what he did.
It really started a few weeks ago but last Tuesday was the day it would end. That day Tim was one of the last people to leave the student parking lot. He had his backpack slung over his left arm and he was carrying his gym bag in his right hand. The wind was picking up and the rain battered his face. As he got closer to his car he noticed that there was someone crouched by the front passenger door their face shielded with their hands. It was obvious that they were trying to avoid the pelting rain, and since his car was the last one in the lot, they seemed to claim that place as their own. Tim did not recognize who it was. By the way they were positioned, he could not even tell if they were a boy or a girl.
Surprise Cards Handed to Students
In student selected groups of two or a jigsaw (both worked for me), each group selected a card which stated a character from the image and a point of view (first or third). For struggling learners, I offered a mini-graphic organizer to get them started which had these four thoughts:
- Character Name
- What are they thinking?
- How would they act?
- What do their actions/appearances tell you about them?
but highly able students moved straight to the next step of making the character come alive by creating a story around the picture, similar to the model. Prior to beginning, I also offered encouragement in creating a unique perspective for the character coupled with powerful verbs and descriptive language. This task gives students an opportunity to display mastery of point of view and increase their writing stamina with a different writing task. Being a timing fanatic, I only gave students 12-minutes to complete the task, but it could easily vary by teacher and ability level too.
Dive One Step Deeper
Did I mention I hold high expectations? Without letting students know, I collected their original stories and shuffled the stories to redistribute to different authors. Perturbed by the act, I explained to students I wanted them to investigate deeper into point of view by now analyzing the new writing they were given. Students needed to identify the point of view and which character was being referred to by the original author’s description and word choice.
But let’s take it one step farther. The new group must add a paragraph onto the story keeping the same perspective and point of view as the originators. After another timed session (7-minutes), all work went back to the original authors.
Student Self Reflection
Good work or not, students (along with their teacher) must reflect on the challenges of the coursework in order to improve themselves. Now getting a chance to read the original portion and the newly added section, students were asked to reflect upon this question: Was my writing descriptive enough to make my character come alive s others could recognize them?
Sometimes there are no single, most critical judge on student than work than that particular student and it stood true for mine as well this week.
Complete a similar activity with a different image which is going to appear in a future story whether it be literary or informational. Also, I would suggest changing the image to a painting or using a clip from a video, but mute the sound. You will be amazed with the results.