Yesterday, I officially introduced my 8th grade students to a “crazy” man (in their words). This man was one of the first authors to look into and work within the dark side of the human imagination. His name is Edgar Allan Poe, a name that I am sure many have heard of (and if you haven’t, you are really missing out!).
As a class, I had the students listen to Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” before tying to “investigate” what this crazy man was trying to say in his story. (Note the key word here is investigate.) Then I had students divide up into pairs and think of themselves as police investigators of the story. I gave them specific examples of figurative language throughout the story and asked them to use the clues Poe gave in his story to write out the very literal meaning of the language he used.
It was my first “official” time teaching the entire class, for the entire day, with my own lesson. My cooperating teacher (CT) asked me if I was nervous and what I expected. I felt bad by saying that I wasn’t nervous because I didn’t really expect anything…I didn’t know what to expect in the first place! It was the truth, though. This entire lesson completely stretched not only the students’ minds but their work ethic as well. I haven’t really ever seen them collaborating in the way I had them do or thinking as abstractly as I was asking them to think. For this reason, I really didn’t know what to expect.
Perhaps not expecting anything is why I was so surprised at how well the students ran with this lesson. How they really jumped in and were willing to take that extra thinking step. True, not every class was as talkative during the class discussion immediately following the story reading, and yes, there were students who really struggled at first with understanding what they were supposed to be doing, but the end result was that every student was engaged with this crazy man’s language and they were understanding it.
I think what I learned the most about this experience is to never underestimate your students, even the one in the back of the room who never pays any attention and already talks about not graduating. It may take certain ones longer to get to where you want them to be, but they are very capable! I guess in the end, I’m surprised that one simple lesson I made up from an idea I took from class, on one “crazy” man’s story, really opened up some of my students’ eyes…