Thursday, March 16, 2017

Community Circles

It's the last school day before spring break. Teachers have a work day tomorrow to finalize quarter three grades. I want to keep our community connected and send kids off to break with positive thoughts. So,  today we celebrated with a compliment circle and donuts! 

  1. Circle the desks.
  2. Give each person a blank pice of paper.
  3. Write names at the top of the page.
  4. Pass the paper to the right (or left as suits you).
  5. Set a ine minute timer.
  6. Write a specific compliment for the person on the page.
  7. At the timer, pass and repeat.
I am always impressed with what kids write to me and to one another. During one class period I saw a lot of students write vague notes along the lines of " I don't really know you, but you seem pretty chill." I asked one of the kids about it after class and he helped me see that the kids in that class period really didn't know each other. As members of our magnet program they've traveled as a pack for a year, but as I realized today, being in a program together doesn't equate with making friendships or building connections with everyone.

Next time maybe I need to do a questions circle, I thought aloud with my son after school. Same concept but each person takes a line and writes a question. The. Then each person gets a day to briefly answer questions before sharing via a gallery pass around the circle the next day. I think we'd learn a lot about each other. I wonder what kinds of questions kids would ask? 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Language Shakespeare, Language

Picture this: twenty-eight students sitting in the semi-darkness of a high school classroom,  midday. Some sit on the rug, some in the U-shape made by desks, some at tall tables. All look to the screen and watch the second half of the first act of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth is about to tell her husband to man up, but what do tenth graders hear?

"I have given su..."

"Language Shakespeare!" someone calls as if calling out a curse or a bad word.

The room explodes in laughter. Kids turn to see my reaction and miss the next few lines.

Did I mention I teach tenth grade?

Even when I prepare kids for the scene many are still caught off guard and distracted by Lady Macbeth's language.

We laughed. And the moment? It worked  as a sequeway to a quick assessment of what kids actually understood. To borrow from Carol Jago, I had kids do a quick four-square to record their  thinking about the scenes we watched, so that I could assess their understanding.
Lots of them thought they didn't understand anything, but in reality many understood more than they thought they did. Loved that.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Exercise in Teaching

"Breathe in. As your arm moves away relax your shoulders. Relax you neck. Sit up, up, up on top of the sitting bones." I hear Ligia, my Pilates teacher as I sit with "mermaid legs" on the reformer,  the tower to my side, right hand on the silver bar.

I shift, shift, wiggle my seat on the mat, try to push my left hip down level with the right. Tight is that joint. There. Sit tall. Breathe in. I feel my chest expand as I inhale. As I push the bar forward with my right hand, I exhale: shhhhhh. Movements are slow and controled. I focus on keeping my hips heavy, ribs lifted 

"Grow your spine. Long, long ...Lee Ann what are you doing with your head? You have the side to side head, the "Walk like an Egyptian"  happening there. Maintain one line from the spine. Inhale into the ribs.  Exhale, push the bar away."

I love how Ligia pays attention. I might not love specific corrections (who does?) but boy do I appreciate it when she walks over and puts two, red, squishy balls on either side of my neck. Those "scaffolds" help me self- correct.

I am learning a lot about language: repetition, humor, consistent direction and clear explanation. Ligia reaffirms much of I believe about good teaching too. I am loving Pilates class.