Monthly Archives: March 2014

RPC 3: Description

RPC 3: Description

Instructions From John’s Original Post:

“Think about a negative interaction you have had in your classroom. Not an entire lesson, but a single interaction that occurred between you and someone else (a student, another teacher, a parent, etc).

Our task today is to take this negative interaction and describe it. It is important that we describe and describe only.

In addition, I would like us to pay particular attention to the feelings of all those involved. How did we feel? How do we think the student(s) felt. For now, let’s not analyze why we think they felt one way or another (that’s for our next challenge).”

 As you might have seen from my comment on John’s original post, I have no intention of including the feelings of any participant other than myself. I am also going to try to state those feelings first and stick to pure description after that.

I invite readers to ask me questions to help clarify the description and to point out where my description might be turning into judgment or analysis (through use of loaded language or whatever), but I’m not looking for analysis, advice or suggestions at this time.

Let’s go!

This scenario took place last Wednesday night. It was around 9pm and the final class of the day. The students had already been studying at our academy since 6:30 and the class before mine is a translation class. There are 12 students in this class – five boys and seven girls. One of the girls was absent. The classroom seating is arranged in a circle with all seats facing the board. The students are using Thoughts and Notions – a reading textbook. On the day in question, they were working on a reading about “Umbrellas.” This was their third day with this reading. As homework I had asked them to make umbrellas with main ideas inside and supporting details underneath (an umbrella for each paragraph of the reading).

“Josh,” the subject of this description, had not done this assignment. I selected students to put their umbrellas on the board and we checked them together. Josh did not take this opportunity to complete the homework in his notebook, nor did two others who had not completed the homework. I said, “Anyone who has not completed the homework should write down the main ideas and details in your notebooks. You don’t need to draw umbrellas.” Two other students began writing – one drew umbrellas and the other wrote main ideas and details.

Josh did nothing. He was frowning and looking at his desk. I thought his eyes were kind of glassy. I went over and repeated my instruction. He didn’t even acknowledge that I had spoken. I repeated his name until he looked at me. Then I showed him the umbrellas on the board and pointed to the sentences one by one. I repeated, “You don’t need to draw the umbrellas. Just write the main ideas. That’s all. Then write the details under.” Without verbal acknowledgement he pulled his notebook towards him and started to write. When I checked back later he had completed it and was ready to move on to the worksheet.

Throughout this encounter, I was quite frustrated. My expectations of Josh were higher than he was willing to put forth that day.

Here ends my description. I hope you can help me with your questions and comments.


Edit: I want to thank everyone for the thoughtful comments! 

Here are some more descriptions to read and add your insights to: 

RP3 – The Description Phase on How I see it now by @HanaTicha

RP Challenge 3: ELC Description by David Harbinson (@DavidHarbinson)

reappropriating resources

I hijacked the “Go Fish” game cards for a class of ten year olds. I’d had them out intending to use the alphabet letters to help the phonics class review (they just finished their first alphabet book), but they’d wanted to play animal memory instead. So “Go Fish” was sitting on my desk untouched.

Actually it’s not a bad little game. There are 50 cards – 25 matches. They’re labeled with a letter of the alphabet and a corresponding animal. And it qualifies as educational in two ways: the matching alphabet letters are upper case and lower case (perfect for my phonics class who have just finished their first go at learning the alphabet) and the matching animals are adult and young (and the upper case letter is always on the adult animal while the lower case letter is reserved for the baby animals). The game even goes so far as to avoid animals whose young are commonly called something different from their adult term (e.g. bunny, kitten, puppy…). But it wasn’t the game I needed.

Where DOES a yak live?

Where DOES a yak live?

You see, my students are learning about animal habitats and behaviours (with the aim to be able to describe an animal without needing to know its name). It is also very important for them to be able to ask questions, so this unit introduces “where” questions as well. They came to class with their homework (singular and plural “where” questions) so full of mistakes that I knew they needed more practice. So I elicited the questions on the board:

Where do (animals) live?

Where does (an animal) live?

And I started a drill. After a painful two minutes of correcting mistakes and trying again, I glanced over at my desk and saw the “Go Fish” cards still sitting there.

I divided the class into pairs and divided the go fish cards evenly between each team (10 cards each) in random order. Player 1 fanned out the cards and player 2 chose one. If it was an upper case letter, player 2 would ask a singular question about the animal on the card (e.g. Where does a goat live?). If it was a lower case letter, the question would be plural (Where do goats live?). Player 1 had to answer the question correctly to take the card. If the answer was wrong the card went back to the deck. Then the players swapped. This continued until all the cards were used.

It took about 15 minutes and they asked a lot of questions, argued some about usage, and helped each other out. When I did a comprehension check at the end of the game, the percentage of correct answers had doubled. And instead of bored or frustrated, they were smiling and confident – raising their hands and speaking louder than before.

One of those lucky moments when a spur-of-the-moment idea born from materials intended for another use just works.

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