Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It was an AHA moment and an OH SH*T moment, all rolled into one.

History class - assignment: Read the following article: The First Christians. Then, answer the following:
On the first page, near the bottom of the firs paragraph, the author state that "what began as a grassroots movement of Jewish peasants would become a powerful institution and a dominant force in Western culture." What does he mean by the statement? Support your answer with evidence.
Things you might consider and include:

  • the expansion of Christianity into Asia Minor and Rome

  • the shift from a rural to an urban religion

  • the direction of expansion of Christianity

A tough assignment? Yes.. no doubt. An impossible assignment for the average 10th grader to complete? Not at all.

The previous days had been spent outlining how to complete such a writing essay. They had the format for writing down.

Blank looks. Across the room. A few feebly attempted getting started.

Finally, out of desperation.... I interjected: IT'S A FOCUS QUESTION GUYS! JUST LIKE IN ENGLISH CLASS. IT'S A FOCUS QUESTION.

(In English II, they've been reading The Crucible and answering focus questions on various parts following a very structured approach. Restate the question for your topic sentence. Write several sentences which support your answer. Then close, usually with an opinion based on the text.)

When I said the magic words FOCUS QUESTION, some of them sat up straighter. I started outlining on the board... using the FOCUS QUESTION format. Suddenly, they GOT IT.

Even Student X, the one who NEVER gets anything said, "I GET IT!!"

I think often, we teach in isolation from subject to subject, we do not use the same terminology, and we do not make those connections for students, the connections they fail to make on their own, the ones we think are supposed to come automatically to them, but in reality, they not only fail to make but fail to see.

We, as educators, need to take the time and effort to show them HOW to make those connections on their own by making a concerted effort on our parts to work across the curriculum, making the way we do things uniform from grade to grade, from content area to content area.

Some may criticize and suggest we are making students conform. Some may accuse this of teaching to the test. But in reality, we are just showing them the way things work. It about creating reasonable expectations, showing them how to meet those expectations, and creating opportunities for them to meet those expectations in multiple settings and situations.


Ken said...

Thank you for your insights into the 10th grade mind! You are correct; more cross curricular work is needed in alls schools. Hope all is well up there in the UP. I graduated from high school in Newberry in 1980. Wish I had had a few more teachers like you!

Cathy said...

I had the same kind of day! Sometimes I wish I could be the proverbial fly-on-the-wall in the brains of students to analyze why they do not/cannot/will not make connections. Is it because they are used to pushing a button and, voila!, they have an answer? Do we, as adults and parents, not expect them to think or make connections? Are we too pressed for time (cover the mile-wide-inch-deep curriculum; get to work/soccer practice/choir rehearsal/grocery store) to allow time for making connections?

As the "thinking coach" in school, rarely do I answer a student's question with a statement. I usually ask the student another question to get him/her to figure it out or suggest other methods of thinking. They hate that, but when the light does come on, the student thinks he's brilliant. :) Love that!

Now that I think about it, do I really want to be that fly-on-the-wall in a teenager's brain. Um, no--not in a million years!!

cossondra said...

Thanks Ken and Cathy.
Ken - We have some great teachers here, still. And.. some who were probably here when you graduated!

Cathy - The adolescent brain is a fascinating and scary place. THe things which seem so obvious to us as adults seems so elusive to them, and vice versa. Can you imagine their conversations about how we think?

Michael said...

Haha! I love reading your blog! It's very creative and very funny to read. I'm only in middle school, but it's funny to read a teacher's blog!

Maybe you could check out my blog? I've just got started and I think you should read my blog post, "The YouTube Project."