Making High School English Fun

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by aer011, Aug 23, 2011.

  1. aer011

    aer011 Rookie

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    Aug 23, 2011

    Hi! I teach 9-12 English at a Disciplinary Alternative school. Currently, class sizes are very small (1-4) but will definitely grow as the year progresses.

    This is my first year teaching, and the general consensus among the students seems to be that English is boring. While I disagree, I understand why they would feel that way.

    I'm having a difficult time coming up with ways to make class more fun. I found a blank jeopardy power point to fill in and I plan on using that as review for grammar tests. Any ideas on what I could do to make literature, writing and grammar more fun? Any help is greatly appreciated!
     
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  3. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Aug 23, 2011

    Honestly, I wouldn't worry about making it "fun" right now. You're a first year teacher, and I think the most important thing is for you to make sure that the class time is filled with *meaningful* lessons and activities. Help them understand why grammar/writing/reading is crucial to their academic and social success. Pull in stories and writing assignments that they can relate to, and they'll find English to be more palpable.

    If you have a specific lesson, though, that you'd like to work on and tweak, definitely post it here so we can walk through it.
     
  4. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Aug 23, 2011

    I find it useful to teach literature that they can relate to in some way. I don't believe in teaching a work from the canon just because it's a "classic." I try and find works that relate to their lives and have characters and situations that reflect the things they go through. I think The Outsiders is fantastic and use that with my 8th graders. I also do Much Ado About Nothing with my sophomores because who can't relate to two people claiming to hate each other and then falling in love :lol: I told my sophomores the general plot today and they're already hooked. I always do reader's theater with Shakespeare. We never just sit and read it and they (almost) never have to read it at home on their own.
     
  5. dovian

    dovian Comrade

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    Aug 23, 2011

    Do you have reading levels or other skill assessments of your kids? I would wonder if some of them are "bored" (and perhaps also discipline problems) because they don't read fluently and struggle. I would start there - look in their files if you can, or find some kind of pre-test.

    In the meantime you have a great opportunity to bond with these kids since your classes are so small. One thing I always hear from kids who go to alternative schools is that "the teachers here really care about you." And it's not necessarily that the teachers at those schools care more than teachers at regular schools, but they have the chance to work more closely with these kids who have felt out of place or marginalized at a regular school and the kids perceive that as "caring more". So definitely get them talking, writing, thinking about themselves, and you can use that as a gateway into the content.

    Ideas for the first week or so:
    -have them bring in a poem or song lyrics that they think relate to them and explain why, and you could do one too.
    -find nonfiction articles they might relate to and have them discuss or write their opinions
    -show film clips and have them analyze those - you could use bits of things you will read later, or just movies you like
     
  6. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Aug 23, 2011

    I work with a high ELD population, so this is probably more useful to me than you in your setting, but one of the easiest ways to make a lesson "fun" automatically is to have a kid find a partner and TALK.

    I have them share their answers, share an opinion about the story, etc. Then, they report back to me, tell me who they talked to and what that person said. It hits speaking, listening and remembering all at once, and they get to be loud and talk in class.
     
  7. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Aug 23, 2011

    I teach sped ELA with small class sizes - I have one class of 4. I really like playing soft upbeat music during independent work. I've found that small classes don't have an "energy buzz" and the students are actually more productive with music playing.

    Another challenge with small classes is that doing group activities is not as stimulating because the small group is always the same students.

    With small groups, the fun comes from the students being able to express themselves. As another poster said - meaningful activities - are the key. If the students can personalize the topic or the novel, they enjoy exploring it.
     
  8. aer011

    aer011 Rookie

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    Aug 24, 2011

    Thanks for the input everyone! I taught my first REAL lesson today and it was awesome! I was so pumped when I'd finished because they were all involved!
     
  9. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Aug 24, 2011

  10. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    Aug 27, 2011

    Being at a Disciplinary Alternative School, I wouldn't worry about the "fun" part too much, if I were you - especially at the beginning of the year. I would suggest setting some sort of routine/structure. Those kids need communications skills in order to get some sort of employment when they get out, that makes your class extremely important.

    If you want, you could perhaps throw in a film every now and again that goes along with any reading that you're doing, but I wouldn't go crazy with the "fun" stuff. There's way too many people who make high school like kindergarten or summer camp with "fun" which is why so many of them are ill-prepared for the adult world.
     
  11. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Aug 27, 2011

    The origional theory was lessons needed to be engaging and meaningful so that the students were interested in learning the content. Somehow in the game of telephone that is played with educational theory "engaging" became "fun" because often students would use the term "fun", a simple vocabulary word, to describe what they were feeling. Learning is fun when it is engaging. Fun meaning pleasurable.

    Focus on making sure it is meaningful to them and that the see the need to become engaged with the lessons. Class doesn't have to be a party. Also, you have to be very careful with "fun" because often they remember the "fun" but not the content in a way in which it can be applied.

    When you get them to the point where it is "fun" to think things through, lessons will become easier.

    I also agree, you need a good handle on their basic skills.
     

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