Friday, September 26, 2008

Weeks Three and Four: Cattle Rustler

So, now, we're comfortable. They know me. I know them. Now the task at hand is to move beyond what is easy.

I am really excited about the prospects that the electronic portfolios students are designing will make available to us. The freedom, the engagement, the creativity -- these aspects make me excited to continue to work on this idea.

What is difficult though is getting students to really "dig in." I want them to delve so deeply into what we are doing that it has meaning for them beyond the classroom. I want to break them out of the "this is my assignment and I choose to accept it" mode. When we write responses to poetry, I want the room to be silent and for them to groan when I tell them to wrap up their writing. I want them to come into class and walk out of class heatedly discussing the day's reading and their work. Instead, I am constantly prodding them to get focused, think deeper, ask more questions, put away work from other classes and ultimately I feel like I am just begging: care, care, care. Excuse the vulgar simile, but sometimes it is like I am the cattle rustler, moving the sluggish beasts along :) What will it take to make the cows dance??

Maybe I need to model this more -- maybe they need to see me immersed in thinking, see me engaged with the ideas. I think I do this, but I don't feel like I am getting through as effectively as I hope.

How can I inspire my students to do thinking and reading and writing that feels good only because it hurts?


Anonymouse said...

Inspiring is about creating the desire within the students to read and think themselves. I think you should work on making the students want to think hard, and want to apply these things beyond the classroom.

The way I think about it is that if I don't remember something, or want to talk about it outside the classroom, then whether or not it could be applied outside doesn't matter. The students have to do something or be told something that will keep itself in their head beyond when the bell rings. For high school students, and especially honors and AP, as soon as that bell for passing period rings whatever happened in the past 54 minutes is filed away until they have to do homework or the next day.

Tell them something that will stick in their mind, give them a phrase that they can remember easily or is funny. Rearranging imagery, diction, structure, and allusions to spell out AIDS is still in my head, and probably in the heads of everybody else at my table. Ask them how some conflict in the Bible or Frankenstein could happen in high school or everyday life. Make them an active participant in the books, not just an observer looking down trying to pick out literary devices and meaning.

Well, those are just my rambling thoughts.

Aphrasethatcutstheselips said...

Truthfully speaking, you are doing a bang-up job of teaching the AP Lit classes assigned to you, so props Mrs. Elliott(This isn't as sophisticated as the response above, but it's easier for me to be honest rather than impressive). It is extremely difficult to catch and hold the attention of more than 30 seniors, who are taking countless AP classes and right in the middle of college applications, but if anyone can inspire them to create, you can. The idea is not to make them think less, but to make them think outside the box.
Routine is prominent in our lives and the more we have to stick to it, the easier it is to loose focus. Change things up a little; for instance, instead of having the little discussion groups, give us a fish bowl, like you used to. The assignment can be done after a two day discussion (or given as homework so that we can discuss what we did in our little groups) and independent study doesn't always have to be a part of the process.
Author's chair is always a good way to inspire others. I know that after i listen to a well written piece by one of my peers, i feel obligated to write better (we are all equally competitive). It would also be nice if you let us know the full scope of the AP test, and how exactly it is set up and what parts contribute the most to receiving a good score.
Just a couple of suggestions...i don't know if this helps or not, but i just wanted to let you know that so far, the class is great.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Elliot, you're just wonderful for signing up to teach a 30+ class of stressed-out, busy seniors! You are doing a great job with the class... most of us seem a bit frustrated with the portfolios since it's a new concept to us: more independence with writing prompts and dealing with technology. I'm pretty sure by the end of the semester we'll get the hang of there won't be applications to fill out at the same time! Keep it up