Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Today was an A+ Day

If I graded every single day, I would give today an A+.
To begin, my Block A class (CHC2P1) was fantastic...but that is typical.  We were in the library working on our photo album of the Depression and World War II.  The majority of the students hopped right onto the computers and got to work.  I hardly had to poke or prod them to get right to it.  One student asked me to check his first photo and caption.  He asked, "I'm going to use the PPE* method for my captions.  Is that okay?"  I was taken aback...I haven't taught the students PPE and didn't really expect that much detail.  Naturally, I told him that was a great idea, plus it's a really great example of his ability to transfer his knowledge to new tasks.  Based on checking the other students' work, I think there are going to be some stellar examples of learning.
My Block B class (CHC2D1) is rather challenging.  I am having a very difficult time engaging them.  It doesn't seem to matter what I do, nothing is interesting.  The object of today's lesson was to review conscription in World War I to frame our understanding of conscription during World War II.  Totally boring.  I wasn't sure how I was going to review the WWI conscription crisis, but I remembered that Lisa (@l_unger) has been playing around with, a "clicker-esqe" type web program.  I created a conscription crisis review quiz using socrative.   Each student signed into the quiz using their phones, plus I brought in eight iPads for students who didn't have an Internet capable phone.  The quiz was a hit.  Students cheered when they got the right answer and groaned when they didn't.  Some asked if we could do this more often.  (Fortunately, I have already planned a similar activity for Friday when we do the Italian Campaign.)  I finally found something that interested them.  Now I need to find some more tools to try and keep their interest.

My Block C class (ENG3U1) is always awesome, even though they (for the most part) do not enjoy reading Macbeth.  This blows my mind, because I love the play.  In February, a couple of students were late because they were at Dairy Queen.  I joked that the least they could have done was bring me a Smartie Blizzard, my favourite.  Fast forward to today...a couple of students bring me a Smartie Bllizzard.  I'm impressed they remembered that it was my favourite.  They're automatically getting A's.  (Actually...they legitimately have earned A's...I'm not that easily bribed.)
The final reason why today is an A+ day is my running.  My friend Holly and I went for a great run and I always feel great after a run.  Many of the English Department members are running, so we are starting an informal English Department Running Group.  Our first run is this Friday.  I'm looking forward to it.  Lastly, I signed up for my first 5km run.  It is called "Color Me Rad" and takes place June 22.

I love A+ days!

*For the non-teacher kind, PPE stands for Point, Proof, Explanation, which is a method for students to structure their writing.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Tweeting Macbeth

I went into the Macbeth unit knowing full well that students in general don't enjoy reading Shakespeare.  I remembered that Danika Barker, (@DanikaBarker), a teacher with Thames Valley DSB had her students tweet Hamlet.  You can read about her project  here.  After scouring Danika's online resources, I decided that I was going to try this out.

My ultimate reason for undertaking this project was to engage students in the play.  (Also, in a survey at the beginning of the semester, a student suggested tweeting Macbeth.)   It would be a familiar way for most students to engage in a language that is unfamiliar.

We are still working our way through the play, so these are just my preliminary thoughts.

I am finding "Tweet Mac" to be an informal way to gauge the students' understanding.  For example, one character tweeted that Macbeth shouldn't have killed Duncan, his father.  Clearly, that student is unclear about some of the basic facts of the play.  It is my job to now clarify this misunderstanding with the class.

I started out by opening up Twitter accounts for each of the characters in Macbeth.  Before I did this, I read over Twitter's terms and conditions and I couldn't find any clause disallowing the creation of "dummy" accounts, like Facebook has.  It is incredibly tedious to open 30 Twitter accounts.  I did this over the span of three weeks, as I could only do three or so in a row without going crazy.  I didn't want the students to open the accounts themselves, because I wanted to maintain control.  This way, I can also reuse the accounts when my future students learn Macbeth.

In preparation for "Tweet Mac", I asked students to bring their own Internet devices to class with them, if possible.  I also brought in iPads for the students who couldn't bring in a device.  I think we were successfully one-to-one that day.  Here is a copy of the task sheet:  Tweeting Macbeth.  (I realized that I forgot the Porter and the Old Man.)  Students spent the period playing around with Twitter and researching their assigned character.

Some students have really taken to "Tweet Mac" and tweet frequently and outside of school. As is expected, some haven't tweeted at all.  I have discovered that I need to set aside some time a couple of days a week (10 minutes at the end of class) dedicated to tweeting.  While it is disappointing that some students aren't participating, I'm not letting it get me down, because I think it is almost impossible to engage an entire class.

You can view this list to see the tweets. Or you can check out the Storify of the tweets thus far.  It is here, most recent tweet to oldest.

My next attempt to make Macbeth interesting is The Great Meme Challenge of 2013.  After a passage analysis summative, of course.

Student Thoughts on Studying Shakespeare

Many students (most?) are not fans of studying Shakespeare.  Some of my students wrote blog posts explaining their dislike.  For example, Branson argues that there are many modern texts that can be taught in the classroom that touch on the same messages that Shakespeare puts forth.  Additionally, Cassidy argues that it is too difficult, creating an unfair advantage for those who find it easy.

I was very surprised that some students put forth arguments supporting the importance of studying Shakespeare in high school.  Madison and Katie clearly outline the importance of studying Shakespeare.  For example, they believe that reading Shakespeare helps them to develop their thinking skills, as his complex writing forces them to really sit with the language.  In fact, Madison's post was able to convince Meghan of the importance of reading Shakespeare in high school.  Rachel's post starts off listing the reasons why students don't like studying him, but she ultimately defends his inclusion in the curriculum.

I'm glad that so many of my students decided to write blog posts about the study of Shakespeare.  In class, a student asked why we were reading Macbeth.  I was on the spot and all of my reasoning seemed lame.  Next time I am asked this question, I will have reasons DIRECTLY from students as to why the study of Shakespeare is important.