Thursday, February 03, 2011

Rereading my most recent posts, I feel the despair and downtrodden-ness taking over. I started my blog as an honest attempt to share what it is like to teach middle school- the good, the bad and the ugly. I've been forgetting to share the GOOD parts.

and even on my worst day, there are good parts...

Today in 6th grade social studies, we reviewed for tomorrow's chapter test on the physical geography of Latin America. I've taught this unit, and loved being back really teaching kids, so I want them to do well on the test. It will be their first test this year they cannot use their notes on, so many of them are unprepared for the reality of commiting new information to long term memory. The test is very basic though. A few vocab words, a map of some important places and landforms of the area, and some short answer questions. An embarassingly easy test, with one 'essay' question asking them simply to recount somethings they learned about the rainforest.

I want them all to be successful on this, their first attempt to take a real test. Using your notes on a test doesn't require you to store information, it just requires you to take good notes. By scaffolding their learning, making this test a simple one, I hope to set them up to realize they CAN learn, can remember information, and can be successful.

We've studied hard for the test together. They made vocab cards, with definitions of the terms, as well as pictures, to help them remember. We organized our notes on a foldable. We've practiced locating the places on a map multiple times. Each student located the places on his own map, as well as contributed to a larger hand drawn group map, locating those and other places. We played vocabulary bingo, we played a review game together today, go over and over the questions/vocab words they were struggling with. I tried to give them visual clues to help them distingush between words they were confusing - tributary and estuary... a TRIBUTary conTRIBUTes to a larger river. We drew it, repeated it, talked about it.

Tomorrow will be the test. We will see. Some of them have sat, refused to participate, even in the fun activities. Others, have shown their eagerness to learn, their willingness to tackle a challenge. I am anxious to see what they have learned.

Then... what comes next? The other teache
r will go back to teaching. I will go back to being the sidekick. I hope I've made a small contribution to his journey as a new teacher, helping him with some ideas of how things can be done differently in social studies. Maybe that's the true test in this project... not what the students learned, but what he learned, and how this impacts his relationship with the students?

Regardless of the outcome, I have loved being the real teacher again, loved connecting with the kids, loved sharing knowledge with them and seeing their excitement to learn.

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