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Here’s a quick post of what is happening.  This entire week I tweaked the curriculum to allow for the students to have more choice in their project.  I have also started to use some different technologies to allow for the information to be more accessible to the students.  For instance, instead of a student straining to see the overhead, students can now view the same information on their computer screens alongside their work (the software I use is called Vision).  This lends itself well to interactive presentations and modeling.  Finally, I stepped up the rigor.  I created Do-Now activities (bell work) that are more challenging and requires the students to use higher level thinking skills.

For the most part the students are becoming more and more engaged, winning over the naysayers.  I had a few students come after school to work on their project, and one of these students was my biggest challenge.  He wouldn’t do his work and he was constantly disrupting others.  I spent a good amount of time with him, which helped build a relationship between us.  His behavior has improved and currently only needs gentle reminders from time to time.

In part III I will post some data/evidence that things are in fact improving or not.

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Student teachers have FUN.  When planning your curriculum, imagine yourself as that student.  Would this be a lesson that you would be interesting and engaging?  If the answer is no, then inject some FUN and be a little silly.  It’s okay!  Be experimental, which means taking some risk that the lesson won’t work.  So be it.  We are practitioners, always seeking better ways to connect curriculum to our students’ lives. 

Elementary and middle-school teachers do a much better job at this than high school teachers.  Loosen up already.  Think outside the box.  Do something that will surprise the students, capturing their attention.  All in all, learning can be FUN and academic.  Not to mention, its reenergizing for the teacher and keeps our content fresh.

I write in my book, Road to Teaching: A Guide to Teacher Training, Student Teaching, and Finding a Job, about when I taught a lesson on world poverty in my middle school Social Studies class.  To kick it off the issue of world poverty, I removed most of the students’ desks and chairs.  The remaining desks represented the rich, chairs represented the middle class, and the floor represented the poor.  The number of desks and chairs were proportionate to the breakdown on income levels of the world.  When my students entered the classroom they were immediately stunned and hooked.  Some wondered out loud, “Why are there only three desks in here?”  They were desperate to find out what they were going to learn.  The lesson that followed was rich and engaging.  The students “felt” the problem.  At the end of the lesson, one of my challenging students said “we should do something about this.”  I said “okay, what were you thinking?”  The following week the entire class and I went to a local soup kitchen, resulting in an awakening experience for many of the students.

There’s another benefit to having FUN.  Injecting a little FUN may get your noticed by your principal.  I remember the principal coming in during my poverty unit to see what all the buzz was about.  He loved the lesson.  This experimental lesson led to a glowing recommendation letter, which helped me land some teacher interviews.  Also, it was a great talking point when asked in an interview, “Describe a lesson that you felt went well.”  (click here for more interview questions)

Try something new this week and get noticed!  Have FUN!

Come Tuesday we will bear witness to a significant event in our lives: the swearing in of the first African-American President.  President-elect Obama represents the best of American ideals and the American dream.  My students, predominately low-income and of color, have been watching this election process with a great deal of interest.  I witnessed some of my “toughest students” get teary eyed when speaking about the election night and what it represented to them.  This has made me reevaluate my lesson plans for Tuesday.  I am going to scrap my original lesson plans in lieu of watching the inauguration on the T.V.  I am now wrestling with how do I create a valuable learning lesson around this event?  Or do I simply relax; the students and I just watch it without any “learning objectives”?  Maybe I will explain what’s happening, answer student questions, and then ask for some type of reflection at the end of the period?   Arrrrr…

What are you doing for Tuesday?  I would love to hear your ideas.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/16/education/16school.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

obama

D.O.E. offers thousands of free lesson plans in many subject areas.  It’s your tax money, so why not use it?

RESOURCE LINK

Free Lesson Plans at the U.S. Deparment of Education