Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What a difference!

Every now and again class just clicks - and tonight, I was really pleased with class. I'm not sure it makes up for the last disaster with this group of teachers, but for whatever reason, everything just worked. What was different this go round? In other words, why did things go so well tonight and so horribly the last time?

For one thing, I was prepared well ahead of time - got ready for Tuesday's class on Monday instead of Tuesday morning - I have a tendency to "over plan," especially when I'm working "last minute" and maybe when I have planned for class so recently I focus more on the plans themselves [i.e., "covering the material"] rather than the students. Also, I simplified the model lesson - I resisted the urge to throw too many strategies at them at one time. I was trying to pull a new lesson together late on Monday and needed to get home, so I didn't try to plan an elaborate lesson at all - in fact, I paid more attention to the match between the standards, the text, and the strategies while at the same time keeping in mind that I needed to introduce the Jigsaw cooperative strategy to social studies and English because I had use it with science and math students two weeks ago. I think the lesson - pared down to essentials - plus a focus on the students' needs may well have added up to a successful class.

Another thing, too, is that students have more experience in student teaching at this point [and therefore have more context and personal knowledge on which to hang the ideas we consider], have done more reading for our class, and I think are finally beginning to put the pieces together. I know how frustrating it must be for them - and how confusing - in the beginning weeks of class. It takes a few weeks for the "big ideas" to make sense to the students. It is a stretch to think of text as more than just print, to consider the literacy needs of middle shool students as your responsibility when you hold a misconception about students learning to read by 3rd grade and then being able to read anything [the old "if elementary teachers had done their jobs, then the students would be able to read their texts" attitude]. Hey - I think I just had an epiphany of sorts. Students come to me with misconceptions about literacy in general as well as about disciplinary literacy specifically. It usually takes until mid-term for students to adjust their own thinking, and to begin to put the pieces together. I wonder if there is a way to speed up their realization about content literacy -- maybe if I thought about their misconceptions as a science teacher does scientific misconceptions, I might come up with a way to disabuse them of their misconceptions. Maybe an activity to offend the intuition - what we now call a discrepant event - hmmmm - I need to think about this for a while. Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy the feeling of having accomplished my instructional goals tonight!