Keeping it simple

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Linguist92021, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Nov 30, 2012

    I think it has finally sunk in that keeping things simple always pays off. I know we're supposed to scaffold as much as we can, but sometimes it's still easy to forget exactly what the kids CAN do and what needs to be explained.

    So this is what happened today - it's a good story :)
    I was subbing for a week. The teacher - as usually - gave me a lot of freedom. She suggested for them to watch a movie on Friday, but I don't feel comfortable to have them just sit and watch. P says it's supposed to be tied to curriculum and I agree with her. So we watched Radio (PG movie) the whole week, drew a plot diagram, defined and discussed elements of the plot and focused on conflicts and resolution throughout the movie. At the end, today they were to write a letter to a character.
    So this is what I did and it worked out so wonderful. I gave them specific choices (choose between 2 characters) and include specific things such as: introduce yourself, tell him why you're writing to him, mention a positive, mention a conflict, how it got resolved, ask a question, etc. Then I wrote a letter myself as an example, and labeled everything to show they were included. I even managed to sneak in vocabulary word requirements as extra credit.
    Explained everything, let the students use my example, even use some sentences if they needed and...
    Every single student has written wonderful, thoughtful letters, they far exceeded my expectations.

    I feel so good about this. I could have thought that 'sure, they know how to write a letter', but I gave them guidelines and an example as a crutch and it was just perfect.

    I need to remember this concept.
     
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  3. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Nov 30, 2012

    Then a few weeks ago I had an epiphany about poster projects. I was not good at it. I am a very artistic, creative person and I naturally imagine everyone else to be somewhat creative - it's hard for me to imagine that some people have trouble even justdrawing stick figures, or design a poster.
    So once in a science class when I tried a poster project it failed horribly. Then I thought things through in the history class and realized I need to keep it simple.
    I came up with specific poster ideas, and typed them up on little cards. I got images off the internet, printed them and cut them out myself. Provided color pencils, glue and construction paper. Explained my rules about talking, being a team, working in pairs / alone only, etc. Everyone chose a specific idea. For all the ideas they used their notes from the week. Gave ideas and instructions; even if they had not one creative bone in their body, they simply had to glue the picture and write things next to it. If they wanted to, they could create designs, color, etc.

    We pulled it off with 3 periods, in 50 minutes. The kids in every period produced beautiful and creative posters. Sure, some kids came up with very basic, simple things, but they fulfilled the requirements and that's what I cared about. We put all the posters on the walls.

    The regular teacher was very happy. He said 'I couldn't believe it, that was a hard-core poster project, and you pulled it off in 50 minutes'

    That was a good lesson to learn and now I think I can do the same thing with any class.
     
  4. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Nov 30, 2012

    Oh, Linguist, both of these posts are splendid!
     
  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Nov 30, 2012

    Modeling and providing visual aids are definitely extremely helpful when it comes to teaching for me as well. I come in just assuming that every kid would need a detailed explanation for tying their shoe or putting a spoon to their mouths to feed themselves. And you know what, some do. And honestly the extra detail and attention doesn't hurt the kids that are advanced, and actually speeds up the whole process better than the alternative of just assuming and then catching individual kids up who don't understand the instructions or how to do something.

    My P tells me to assume that the students have the ability of a 1st grader when it comes to following directions. You have to read the directions, actually carry them out at the front of the class, and break it into chunks and have them practice doing each chunk all together while you check on them, before you can just let them go at it, and even then there will be students who still don't understand the instructions.

    Fred Jones calls it Say-See-Do (You say it, they see you do it, and they do it) teaching and using Visual Instructional Prompts (VIPs).
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Thank you :)
    I was so touched.
    And of course we have students come and go, some get released and then we get new students. I had about 16 students in one class and by Friday I only had 4 kids who were there the whole week. I still had 16 total, but the other 12 came in sometime during the week. So not all of them have seen the entire movie, because we started Monday and they missed at least part of it. So to accommodate for that, and still do the assignment - at the suggestion of the TA, who is very clever - I had those students either write a letter to any character from any movie or to a person they know, still fulfilling the requirements. Only a few of them have done that, the rest still wrote to the characters from Radio, I guess they felt they had enough information, or saw the movie before.
    So i guess it worked out on all levels. And I had enough time to read each letter as they handed them to me, and got to tell them how impressed I was. Their faces were glowing :)

    I wish I could keep some of those letters, I'm sure the teacher would let me. I'm thinking maybe to put together a lesson plan and include the letters. In a portfolio, do people include student work or is that unnecessary?
     
  7. ciounoi

    ciounoi Cohort

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    Say, I've got a question, Linguist. You consistently post about the awesome things you are able to do as a sub. Do you have difficulty getting the students to understand what you want them to do? In my experience actually teaching, the projects you described above would most likely be met with blank stares. :) How do you explain to the students what you want them to do?
     
  8. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Linguist, I loved both of your posts. I have always believed most kids really need solid, laid-out examples to start learning from. Many believe this stiffles learning and creativity because creativity and original ideas are the hallmark of understanding, but what we need most is for ALL (or almost all) to be able to at least perform the basic tasks. Creativity and originality will come out of that AFTER the basics have been mastered. That student that can come up with a creative way of doing things without having to have as much instruction in the basics will be able to be creative after they have proven they can accomplish the basics.

    I love that you are giving these kids a foundation to start from. Once they are comfortable, some will easily be able to excel after in their areas of strength while others will be competent instead of forever lost trying to produce something they have no foundation for. Education has abandoned the basics and deemed much of it as evil and thwarting learning.

    I'm applauding your efforts.
     
  9. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    That is awesome!

    When I was teaching at my last school I had very low level learners. I would try so hard to make things simple but found that I expected them to already "know" too much. That's when I realized I needed to make examples for everything, talk them through each step, etc. Work was exponentially better when I was "keeping it simple"

    :thumb:
     
  10. applecore

    applecore Devotee

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    Definitely keep a copy of the work and lesson plan; always, always make a copy before you hand it back. You can black out the name of the student due to privacy to keep with your portfolio.

    I do keep student copies of work that exceeds the expectations, meets the requirements, and ones that did not meet the expectations as examples for future students to review and for my own benefit of what I would do differently next time.

    ...and of course, we have to have artifacts of our teaching when we are evaluated; so keeping copies of student work is necessary. :)

    I teach 3rd grade, so you can imgaine the different levels of writing I can get. :)

    Fantastic ideas for making changes and adapting lessons, by the way. I think the P would be impressed that you were able to come up with a way to make a movie tied to curriculum. :)
     
  11. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Well, I experienced that with the poster project that horribly failed. It was a science class and we were learning planets, specifically the terrestrial ones.
    - So I got colored paper (the harder kind, about twice the size of a legal size paper), markers, scissors and glue.
    - Verbally gave them some ideas
    - gave them an example: drew Mars with a marker and listed the facts about it. (it was simple)
    - explained my expectations about working together, talking, being on task, etc.
    Some of the students started writing the title of the poster in beautiful calligraphic letters. They spent so much time on it, they never finished. Others started cutting out planets from colored paper like i wanted to, but made it too small, too big, never finished. It FAILED. A lot of them didn't know what to do.

    With the poster projects this is what I did:
    - I gave them the regular 8x10 paper. Smaller surface to fill in.
    - besides verbally explaining what I wanted, I typed up the poster ideas: Nelson Mandela, South Africa, African countries, etc. Each little card stated things I wanted on the poster. I asked who wanted what, and handed the card to them with the supplies
    Gave them specific basic ideas that I needed and explained they can make it more.
    - I didn't expect them to draw anything, I got the images and cut it out for them (decreased time and trash in the classroom, possibly losing scissors or even having problems)
    - explained my expectations about working together, talking, being on task, etc.

    I think what really helped was that I was giving out specific assignments, gave ideas and expectations, let students volunteer and then move on to the next one. Sounds like it took forever. It took maybe 10 minutes, but it was worth it, because no one was lost.
    For example: "this project is about South Africa. You will get a blank image of the African continent. [show them the picture] You'll find South Africa, label it, and write facts about from your notes (population, year of independence, etc.). This is what I NEED. You can make it look pretty with coloring it any way you want, but it can be simple as coloring South A. blue for example, and everything else green. Who wants to do this? I have 2 of these available."
    And the same thing with the other ones.

    During first period we put them on the wall, so the other classes had better idea. Sure some didn't look pretty at all, but they still did what had to be done, which was the important part.

    So the lesson I learned: even though these students are ages 13-18, I still have to explain things as if they were 8.
     
  12. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I will ask the teacher if I can have some of them, I'll be there next week. After they're graded, they don't really need them. Thanks! :)
     
  13. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Thank you! I agree with you! I saw this based on their work, when they did the posters. I saw posters that very basic, for example: African continent glued on the paper, all the countries labeled and had their year of independence next to them. Title and name of the students. No color, nothing else. It's ok, they did what I asked them to do and it was related to the curriculum.
    Another student did the same thing, but he colored the African continent with the typical African flag colors: red, yellow, green, and with some kind of design; and made it so pretty that it stood out from even the other side of the room. They did what I asked them to do, in a creative way. Both students would get an A, because they all fulfilled the expectations, and the less creative one doesn't have to feel inferior.
     
  14. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Yeah, I definitely find that examples, models, and clear expectations are the best way to help the kids understand what they should do. My examples are always simple and basic, but I explain to my kids that they are examples to show what I want them to do, but I expect their work to have more details and for them to put in more effort.
     
  15. Resentful

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    I know it's different, but when I first started subbing I had a longterm assignment for a third grade class. I would give them example, but would never do the whole thing and show them. I found they would copy my examples. Do the students ever try and copy what you write? You know, copy your template but with their own details? I also think writing a full letter, or what the project is, can stiffle creative. The students might thing "it has to be this" way.
     
  16. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I think this is a great point. I always have a couple who use some of my example, but change it and make it their own. They tend to be the ones who have a harder time coming up with their own idea, so I figure it's giving them the support they need. I have had a student this year write down exactly, word for word, my sentences, but I made him go back and change it (I always tell students not to copy my example anyway, but I guess there's always that one who does it anyway, at some point or another). The more apt students have not seemed stifled by my examples and models, though I think there could be situations in which that could happen (depending on the assignment) Actually, I did stop giving sentence starters by week 8 or so because I felt that was happening to many of my students during writing time. So, I think a teacher needs to really be in tune to how the students are responding to the examples and models and modify accordingly.
     
  17. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    In that school we have anone from 8th grade to 12th grade in the same class. We have students who are 12th graders with such low credit that they'll never graduate (so they'll do GED). We have extremely bright kids, high reading as well as 4th grade reading levels. I have special ed, general in the same classroom.

    So I wanted them to write a letter, and use as much of my help as they needed. I actually handed out the assignment with the criteria and the letter example. Not one kid copied the letter!
    I told them if they want, they can use my sentences, but make them their own. My letter started like this:
    "Dear Coach Jones. My name is ..., I am a teacher and just showed your movie Radio to my students."
    So obviously they couldn't copy that. I had plenty of students starting off with the same fame. "My name is so and so, I live in ...., and go to high school (some were specific to the location. My teacher (some named me, one even said my wonderful teacher :) substitute teacher) just showed us your movie...."
    I found that some maybe used 1 or 2 sentences of mine, but even then they changed it around.

    That's why I said that I was very impressed, because no one copied my letter. They were not trying to be lazy, this was their chance to write their thoughts.
    One guy who came in Thursday wrote a letter to a person (it was allowed). He still followed the criteria. It was to his mom, and he included a positive (telling her how much he appreciates her, how hard she works and usually she doesn't get the recognition) included a conflict (they had a fight about cleaning his room) and the resolution (he apologized and cleaned the room), asked her a question, etc.

    A lot of the kids have really opened up. One wrote about his high school days when they had a special ed boy who always got picked on. He would intervene and stick up for him when it got bad, but now he says he feels bad, he wished he could go back in time and stick up for him all the time.

    It seemed that the actual letter example didn't stunt creativity, it actually fostered it, because they had something to lean on.
     

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