Saturday, October 2, 2010

Day 288- First Hour

Today was officially the last day of first quarter, and my first hour still offically thinks I'm insane.  I am chipper and full of personality at 8 o'clock when we begin every day.  They are not.  I dance around and entertain and do everything I can to draw them out and get them involved.  They look at me.  Seriously.  It's like a staring contest sometimes.

I'm not sure that it's even because it's first hour.  This is one of my laziest classes and is full of a whole bunch of kids who just don't care a whole lot or try a whole lot.  They're too cool for school.  The difficult thing is that each and every one of my lessons is tried out on them first, but it is often not until second hour that I truly get to see how the lessons will work and how the day will go.

All of my late work was due by the end of the day yesterday, and I wondered what in the world I would do with all of my kids today.  They were having parties in a bunch of their classes, but I really don't think I've seen enough quality work from any of my classes collectively to warrant giving them a day off.  These kids really need to learn and grow as much as possible this year.  I was sure that they would rebel against any work I tried to get them to do today, but I decided to give it my best effort anyway.

My students have lots of great ideas, but they could use some work on really organizing them and knowing what to do with them.  I crafted a tutorial today on the best way to answer constructed response questions and an accompanying PowerPoint with example questions and activities that I thought was pretty darn cute.  I was excited about this lesson and really hoped it would take.  I was prepared for my first hour to roll their eyes at me and make me tread water through the lesson until second hour.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The lesson started with me asking them to take notes on a few things.  They actually did.  Then, I modeled what they had learned by showing them some effective answers I had made up to answer the questions "Who is the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?" and "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?"  They laughed and played along.  After that, they got into groups and had to write answers to their own silly questions.  These were things like "What happens to socks when they go missing from the laundry?" and "Should the three second rule apply when you drop food on the floor?"  They did a beautiful job of using what they had learned to construct lovely answers with examples and supporting details and complete sentences and all kinds of good things.  Once each group answered their assigned questions, we went around and read them group by group.  After a group read their answer, the other groups would grade them based on the criteria they had learned.  They got to use my little white boards to show their answers like on a game show.  They liked that.  One of the most satisfying things to overhear in the classroom is students having excited conversations using the vocabulary and ideas that I give them ("I think they should get a '3' because they followed the criteria, restated the question, and gave adequate evidence." "No, I think they should get a '2' because they didn't really clarify or explain that last example enough.")  Ahhh... music to my ears. 

Once they had practiced answering my silly questions, then they had to answer more "real" questions.  They still did well.  They had all kinds of opinions and ideas and really applied the lesson to their work.  Again, I heard them really helping each other by discussing the things they had learned.  They were a little community of learners and thinkers supporting each other and truly elevating the work of each student in the class.  I could not have been more proud. 

I've had other good days in first hour, but today I finally had a major breakthrough... on the last day of the quarter... amidst the craziness of the day... and they actually learned something.  Go figure.  If my first hour went that well, you can only imagine how wonderful the rest of the day was.  I giggled my way through hour after hour of creativity and humor (by the way, your socks that are missing are used as puppets by your little brother... or taken by little leprechauns that live in the vents... or....).  While other teachers were completely frazzled by hyper, out of control kids today, I had one of my best days yet.

Cue Fall Break.

Thank you, first hour, you made my day.

 

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