Over Winter Break, I couldn’t stop thinking about my classes. First, the sophomores continue to stress me out as I doggedly look for ways to engage them in something, anything, other than instant gratification (for the love of God—can they do anything but play games, watch movies, and/or hit each others butt/crotches. Seriously, what is that?!). I didn’t have any epiphanies for them, so for now we’re tackling Night. It’s required for 10th grade, and it’s the first sustained piece I’m trying. It’s…going…not horribly.
(On a side note, it’s amazing when, as a prolific and voracious reader, you view pieces through a non-reader’s eyes. Suddenly you realize just how slow the first chapter of Night is. Or, you think, “Man, some of To Kill a Mockingbird is excruciatingly detailed.” It also makes me again wonder why we do so much classical literature, which was written for ADULTS, with teens. No wonder they hate to read.)
Back on topic: in this post, I want to focus on the odd things I did dream up for my AP students. These students are smart, but they were seriously ill equipped for AP Lang & Comp. At least ¾ of them had never written a research paper, which we all know they will do in college. They were adept at skating by and cheating, but weren’t prepared for a class where wrote (The horror!) and read (The humanity!) and they actually had to use their brains (I’m evil!). I do still have a handful that will never break a sweat if they don’t have to, but the rest have risen to every challenge I’ve presented and are blossoming as they realize their own competence.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to sacrifice some of the literature (I continue to pare down every year) and work in more “real world” skills: listening, note taking, and analysis of mediums other than literature. Last week we tackled notes and listening. I decided I was sick of them taking forever to take notes (even on the computer). Below are the resources I’ve used so far and the short lessons/directions I wrote.
Monday: No School/PD Day (Ugh. The Circle of Hell Dante forgot about.)
Tuesday: After explaining I’m not a resolution person, but one who engages in self-reflection…a lot, I asked students a series of self-reflection questions. It always amazing me how honest most students are when asked to reflect. We finished the class by discussing grades vs. learning. I challenged them to NOT look at their grade in my class for the next month. I also dared them to focus on the learning rather than the arbitrary number/letter. If they focus on learning, the rest should fall into line. I told them we would need to trust each other: I would need to trust them to do their best and strive for excellence, and they would need to trust me to “worry” about their grades. We shall see how this goes.
Wednesday: (took about 40ish minutes of a 50-minute period)
1. Asked students to get a piece of paper and something to write with.
2. This video quickly goes over 5 different methods of note-taking. The guy uses Street Fighter…I don’t know…but it was quick and useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AffuwyJZTQQ&index=2&list=PLi6AA-EYd9tNe7EK_5XsZbDuE49ZLv8OY
Students wrote down 2-3 methods they thought they could/would actually use.
3. Next, we did this 7 minute video on the Cornell system for more depth (and to show students how to combine methods): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUOuG4Py5wc&list=PLi6AA-EYd9tNe7EK_5XsZbDuE49ZLv8OY&index=3
4. We briefly discussed paper vs. computer because we are 1:1, and they always choose computer. Then I showed this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsb-U8bZpig&list=PLi6AA-EYd9tNe7EK_5XsZbDuE49ZLv8OY&index=1
5. Next, on the same paper, I told them to choose one of the methods and get ready to take notes over this TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better
6. We briefly discussed what stood out to them and the 5 ways to improve listening.
7. Last, I told them to get comfortable (heads on desks/eyes closed/sitting or laying on the floor/whatever). I played about 4 minutes from two different classical pieces (as time allowed). After the first piece, we discussed what different elements we heard. Just so you know, I played “The Tell-Tale Heart” from The Shadow of the Raven by Nox Arcana and “Lullaby for my Favorite Insomniac” by the Ahn Trio. Both pieces use more than instruments.
Thursday: (pretty much all 50 minutes)
(I was absent for a couple classes, so the directions were very detailed. Ha!)
Here are the actual directions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ysCHApP-f2HRfmb9H8qEq3NTdA_FT_0O8RxFaZjSzQo/edit
Overall the students loved this and want to do it again. Some of us decided we want to binge on TED Talks this summer.
Friday: (probably all 50 minutes)
I didn’t have time, but in the future I’ll start the class by asking them to try to summarize the TED Talks they listened to the day before. I’ll probably have them do this on sticky notes—to see if they actually retained anything. Then we’ll do this: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wZHwpd7yqAST-QvG0Acn4OM7h3giNrcG1i3JpGfJa7A/edit
This actually was fun. I made them put up cell phones. We went to our library for more space. I let students choose partners and sit across from each other, with some space between groups.
I gave them paper for the summarization part. I also chose to go over directions orally (to practice listening) and read the questions out loud. The times are rough; mostly I tried to listen to the rise and crescendo in conversation. When I heard it tapering off, I called “time.”
I warned them we will probably do something like this again, but next time they will partner with someone they don’t know as well.
Overall, this was a productive week. I’ve already noticed a difference with their note taking. As for the listening…we will keep working with that….