Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day Two

Usually the immersion from day one is still wearing off: probably what goldfish feel like when they get dumped out of those little plastic bags and into the tank...

I've heard a theory stressing that some teachers fall into the "entertainer" group. In other words, they feel the need to make sure everyone in class is laughing and their lessons could double as stand-up comedy routines. I've heard the rule "don't smile until Christmas," and inevitably, these folks are making jokes or telling ridiculous stories on the first day.

Some good natured goof-ups:

To an 8th period class: "So, I'm married and we have a dog. The dog's a cute little fluff-ball. Since we're the last class of the day it's up to you guys to make sure I go home happy. Otherwise I might put the boot to my pooch."

To a low level group of language learners, ages 16-18: "Reading is awesome. When it's good you see all kinds of funky stuff. Like drugs. Only, cheaper."

Band director: "Whatever you do, make sure those instruments are cleaned regularly. You don't want to end up with a rusty trombone."

To Freshmen: "So if you have to use the bathroom, I recommend holding it. I hear there are no doors on the stalls, and this whole wing files in there during tornado drills."

The last one will keep them from asking to use the bathroom, the first one may keep your eighth period in line, the second one might involve the inside of your Principal's office, and the one about the trombone, well. Even the best of us have been known to blow it big-time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What do you do on the first day?

I always struggle thinking up interesting activities for back to school, day one. I used to be kind of a slavedriver and make my students write an essay; no, not "What I Did This Summer," but more like a getting-to-know-you kind of thing. I wrote one to introduce myself. Kind of corny, I know. Harry Wong stresses that if you want students to take your class seriously and work hard, you should make them work on the first day and save the boring rules, etc. for another time. No "fun" stuff either. One year I just got tired of making them do something "serious" and had students get into groups of two and three to brainstorm a list of story titles. The only requirement was make sure it's a title that would attract interest. Then, they actually wrote the story as a group. When I first experienced this activity the teacher, Sheila Schwartz, had us write the story directly onto origami paper. If we decided the story stunk at the end, we could fold it into a swan or a hat or something. Brilliant stuff. Every writer should toy with the idea of stocking their printer with origami paper.

What do you do on day one? What's the tone you shoot for, and how do you get it?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Catcher in the Rye Photo Story

When you are blessed with students who are not afraid or distrustful of their imaginations, this activity can be fun. Arrange four images and ask students to put them in chronological order. Stories appear. You can have them tell the stories out loud in groups or individually on paper depending on how much time you need to fill. Here are some more images I use from Catcher in the Rye.