Legit lessons

Now that life has calmed down some (ha!), back to reflecting…

You may remember students referring to me before as being “legit.” Well it seems this group of kids think the same thing as I’ve been hearing this same comment recently. Not going to lie, it makes me feel good. I want students to realize we aren’t doing just busy work, we’re doing work to benefit them. Too many times I’ve heard, “Well Mrs. (fill in the blank) only had us do busy work stuff. English was so boring!” Though not every student is all about English class, I have noticed that even within the first few weeks of school, some students now have more confidence within the English classroom and are opening up. Positive steps towards the learning environment that is beginning to take shape in my classroom which is definitely awesome to see happen.

One of the big projects I have had students do so far is create a book trailer. (You can check out the ideas behind the trailer project here.) Basically, students were required to read a pleasure book this summer. The first component of their reading included creating a voicethread. Then, instead of having them write an essay about the book, I asked them to create a trailer that made others want to read their book. (Side note: I’m having all of my classes continue their independent reading and create a trailer for the end of the semester too. I want them to read (and real a lot!), so this is a way to get them going…) I really cannot stress how truly impressed I was by their work. At first, they were all pretty resistant to the idea…”we have to do what?!?” So it took lots of reassuring and reexplaining to help them realize they could do it. From complaining about the length (4-5 minutes) to technology issues, I heard it all. But their end results proved to me that I wasn’t asking too much and their resistance stemmed from not being comfortable working in this “different” medium.

What did I learn?

  1. Students are very capable. Sometimes you have to push them to help them see that they can do things even if they “hate” you for it.
  2. The problem is not using the technology, yet technology suddenly becomes the excuse. What I mean by this is that a lot of students made it quite clear (at the last minute) that technology wasn’t working for them. Yes, I do believe there are a few glitches that needed to be taken care of, but I realized that technology wasn’t the problem —> the true culprit was procrastination!
  3. By having students fill out the project packet, they seemed to “get” that the trailers served the purpose of a pre-writing strategy for their book trailers (or in other words, book review essays in a media format). They weren’t thrilled about the packets, but I wanted them to consciously sit down and think about what they were doing…and then be prepared to explain why they did what they did. (This last point is a common trend in my classroom…I want them to ALWAYS be thinking, and thinking deeply, about everything they do.)

One thing I have found very interesting (and cool) is seeing students do their DGPs (Daily Grammar Practice) on their tablet pcs. We are a one-to-one school so this is possible of course, but I never realized they were utilizing their computers in this way. They liked being able to mark-up their weekly sentence in color and having that “file” with them vs. carrying in a notebook.

In addition, I realized that students do notice some of the little things you do…for example, one day I forgot to write the date on the board (I always write the date in the corner of the board), and a student quickly reminded me. They like consistency. And having the date on the board, in the same place, every day is one of those little things they secretly appreciate.

Finally, the Ning work across the board is going pretty well. Right now, most blog posts have been teacher-prompted, but to my surprise (and delight) some students have blogged on their own and commented on their peers’ work. And students seem to really like “Ning-ing” – the term they have coined for our Ning work, ha!

Now it’s off to create a few quizzes to hopefully use on Moodle tomorrow. Moodle is a goal of mine. I have used a few different online classroom management systems, and for freeware, Moodle gets the job done. However, sometimes it just feels so bulky and not user-friendly for me. Nonetheless, I do like using it and with the rise of the flu (and the fear that school could close if things got really bad), it’s nice to know that tools like Moodle (or my class Nings) could keep class up-and-running from home. (My school is actually working to implement procedures to go into affect if school needs to be closed. A great example of how technology can greatly help us keep things going!)

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