Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hands On Activities in English

As an English teacher, I struggle to find ways to engage my hands-on learners.  It is so much easier to be the demonstrator, lecturer teacher.

Yesterday, I had a smidgen of success.  Students had pre-tested on Phrases and Clauses.  The results showed that most of them didn't understand the difference. (The ones who did went to the library with an extended exercise that I will explain some other time.)

For the ones who didn't understand, we went through a review of the definitions together.  Then we reviewed verbs and subjects to make sure that wasn't the issue. (For many of them, that really was the problem.)  I wrote words on the board.  Together we identified subjects and verbs and then labeled the groups Phrase or Clause.

I wrote ten groups of words on the board, and they tested themselves by labeling them at their seats.  Finally, I divided the class in half and sent them to the board.  I called out Phrase or Clause, and they had to write an example not previously used.  The remaining students determined whether they were right or wrong and helped them fix errors.  Then everyone switched places.

This wasn't very creative or innovative.  Students have been at the board for many, many years. On the other hand, one student said he hadn't understood them until he had to write his own. (Thus proving once more that teaching grammar in isolation isn't very wise.)

When we finished, the students took the post test and 90% of them reached mastery at the 80-100% level.

My question is, have any English teachers out there developed manipulatives or other hands-on activities for secondary students? I have found a few ideas, but not many. I am particularly interested in ideas for teaching language usage and sentence development.  Any and all ideas would be welcome!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back Where I Started

Today is the first day of school, and I feel like I have landed right back where I started 37 years ago.  Well, almost.

Why, you ask?

My room has no air conditioning. It has been broken for the last two weeks, and the repairmen haven't been able to fix it...yet!  (I have high hopes and every finger crossed.)

I also have no technology working.  The tech plate on the wall that controls my document reader, mini mac, VCR/DVD, and projector quit working on the last day of school in May.  The tech guys alerted the company who has left this repair job until this coming Monday---after school had started.

And the computers in my computer cart all need some kind of update that I don't have permission to do.

But, I have survived without technology and air conditioning before--and I'm sure I will today, too.  My classroom will be more pen/paper oriented, and I'm fairly sure it won't smell all that great either. (Hormonal teenagers in 85+ indoor temperatures = YIKES!)

The difference today?  My daughter is now my assistant principal.  *sigh!  (Do you think there are paybacks coming for the time she spent in my room as a sophomore?  "Dear, what is that you don't understand about the concept of getting quiet??"  Yes, I might have said that during Sophomore English back in '97.)

Actually, watching her in this leadership position has been a treat.  I'm sure there will be rough roads ahead from time to time, but she seems like a natural.  I remember her kindergarten teacher knew what we would come to know--that she had exceptional leadership skills even in kindergarten.

Now, if she could just lead the AC people and the technology people to my classroom, I would be thrilled!