What should a classroom look like?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education Archives' started by Johnny Blah, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. Johnny Blah

    Johnny Blah Rookie

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    Jan 23, 2005

    Hello,

    I am having trouble coming to terms with exactly what my classroom atmosphere should be. Sometimes I just look around the room and the students are not interested and they are dead silent. I don't know how to engage them. Hemingway is so fascinating to me but to them he is nothing. He is dead or worse yet he was never born to them. I stand there and speak endlessly and passionately about my subject and I cannot elicit a response. So I go on spewing all of my knowledge on the board and try to mimic the writing style of authors on the board and then I place characters into graphic organizers and I only serve to imprison these characters that once held so much meaning to me but now they are just symbols and themes devoid of whatever life they once held. And while all this is happening the students sit there and hate it and I can actually feel their apathy and I can taste their utter dissatisfaction with everything I have said in the past 30 minutes, so I turn them loose in groups and they work without emotion and the bell rings and they leave and I accomplished nothing. What the hell am I doing? Why did I choose this career? Can I get out? Should I get out? Will things get better? Will I stop putting off sleep because I am afraid it will only bring morning and work? When I do successfully teach them something they could care less, and I tell them that they now own a piece of knowledge, a piece of the world and they get to make it their own and give it back to people with a little bit of their personality wrapped around it, but they just stare and think I am crazy, and now I think I am crazy too. Respond to this rant if you like. I will not be offended if you turn and run, though. I actually had a serious question when I started. Somehow that was lost.

    Back to the topic. Is this what your classroom looks like?
     
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  3. penguinteach

    penguinteach New Member

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    Jan 23, 2005

    Try to make it come alive to them. Dress up the room to take them to one of his settings. Have a Hemmingway Dress Up day. Everyone can come dressed as a Hemmingway-inspired character. Play music from his life. Try applying your lessons to Gardner's MI. See what works for your kids. Hope this helps.
     
  4. swsmith63

    swsmith63 Rookie

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    Jan 23, 2005

    GAining INterest about Hemingway

    I understand what you mean about getting kids interest in a subject that we find fascinating, yet in which they are bored. I don't think you mentioned what age group you were working with, but I have found that kids are just bored in general with anything unless they are doing things with their friends. Putting them in groups is a good idea if there are specific objectivers for them to address. I think you might want to try bringing hemingway to life as a real person aside from his writing. are there any journals about what he did in his spare time? When I wanted to get my kids interested in Twain, I brought out the fact that he was an avid pool player. Finding something that the kids can identify with seems to help. I would be gald to chat with you on other ideas that I have had that really gets the kids motivated within their projects if you would like. I am available at swsmith63@yahoo.com or on yahoo messenger as swsmith63. Good luck! :)
     
  5. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Jan 23, 2005

    You're working to hard...Rethink your lesson plans a bit. Instead of being a teacher whos the 'sage on the stage' see if you can shift more to being the 'guide on the side'. Could you have cooperative groups work together on a wirtten piece in the style of the author, they could make posters or graphic organizers for different chapters and present to class, jigsaw different parts of a text, etc, etc. YOU don't have to do it all- give the students some ownership of their own learning and hold them responsible for it....Since this is a big paradigm shift from how you've been doing things just make a few changes at a time. As you get your kids more engaged through hands on, inquiry based learning, they will enjoy it more and so will you.
     
  6. Johnny Blah

    Johnny Blah Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2005

    I am really happy that I found this forum. Your responses are very nice, and yesterday night I was in a bit of a mood. I was tired. But now I am rested and off to work. I will certainly employ all of the suggestions given here. And I will post the progress I make. I am teaching 10th graders right now. My freshmen are working on the “Lord of the Flies”, which is a book that lends itself so easily to fun activities. I just wish that “A Farewell to Arms" did too.
     
  7. JulesW

    JulesW Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2005

    I hear you loud and clear!!

    You sound like a passionate, knowledgeable reader and thinker, a true lover of literature.

    I think you just might have to realize that not all kids will be that (although you can certainly faciliate its growth by continuing to communicate your own love!)

    About charting stories on graphic organizers and them losing life, it is just one of the necessary evils, IMO. I feel like that too sometimes. However, you have got to realize that that is how a lof of children learn and process information, so it is helpful in a lot of ways. I don't really believe that its a hinderance to the kind of passionate love for lit that you are describing. In fact, although I agree with you, I wish more of my teachers would have done it in school because it would have helped me study for tests!

    I think you've gotten a lot of great ideas here-experiment and see what works and what doesn't and roll from there!

    Good luck! Isn't it funny how as teachers we can have good days and bad days (and when it's bad, it is usually REALLY bad).
     
  8. Prissypants

    Prissypants Companion

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    Jan 24, 2005

    You're right. Some books and subjects do lend themselves more easily to fun activities and student interest, whereas others don't. Or sometimes, a subject is just as likely to be converted to interesting lessons as others, but our minds blank out and we can't think of how. This is how it always was for me teaching grammar. It was hard to make it interesting. Grammar has always been so easy for me that I couldn't imagine others not just "getting it" right from the start. But that's just not how it works. Some of my students really struggled with grammar and wanted to quit when it got too tough and too monotonous for them.

    It was times like these that I turned to the internet for help. I couldn't, for the life of me, come up with fun ways to teach certain rules, but other teachers had done the job for me. If you're having trouble finding interesting ways to hook your students, see what other teachers have found helpful. I'm sure there are tons of lessons already assembled about "A Farewell to Arms" and Hemingway. Maybe some of these lessons can help to gain your students interest.
     
  9. HumbleEmpire

    HumbleEmpire New Member

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    Jan 24, 2005

    I think I've definitely had days like that! I try to relay little pieces of the authors' lives that the students might connect with, little nuggets that might grab some attention...for instance, for the artists in the class - that Picasso and Hemmingway were acquaintances. Or for the bohemian rebels...and you know who they are ;) ...I'd draw on his bohemian lifestyle, his absinthe drinking (and pass out black licorice candy?), his suicide.

    Good luck!
    Melanie
     
  10. litlmama

    litlmama Comrade

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    Jan 25, 2005

    The more lines you can draw from the students to the author or the characters the more involved they will become. With Romeo and Juliet I try to tie it in with current events... with my more global classes we use world figures and events... with my "terribly teen" classes I try to tie it in to pop culture. You just need to figure out what they are talking about outside of class and find a thread to what you are covering in class.

    As for grammar (ugh) have you ever checked out Caught Ya!:Grammar With a Giggle by Jane Bell Keister? My 9th graders love it. Yes I said love it. It's sick, but true... they can't wait for grammar.

    Sometimes we just need to translate our excitement for our students.

    I also find that for every bad day, somewhere there are 2-3 good days.
     
  11. Johnny Blah

    Johnny Blah Rookie

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    Jan 25, 2005

    Thank you all. Your suggestions were all great and I have made great strides. Just today I brought up nearly all of the stuff mentioned here and it worked. Finally some life was breathed into the kids, and I saw more than one eyebrow raised up in curiosity and enlightenment. I used music, paintings (Picasso), and a photo album of Hemingway’s life that traces his Michigan roots, follows him through the war, Paris, Africa, and Cuba. We gathered around the book like it was story time in second grade and I told a story for each picture I had selected. It worked!! Music was next followed by an in-depth account of all of Hemingway's “rabble rousing” as I called it. Now they have a face to go along with the very stoic and dry Frederic Henry. That was all I needed, a hook, something that the kids could sink their teeth into. Thank you all for your suggestions. It probably would have been easier to tell to shut up and stop whining but you were all a great help, and I promise to pass on the favor should I ever have the chance.
     
  12. Miss Teacher

    Miss Teacher New Member

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    Jan 27, 2005

    I am not sure if my reply is going to answer your post directly... But here goes!

    I'm a new teacher. I have started mid-year. I tried to make my classroom as bright as possible. I have snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and snowman all around the classroom. All student made.
    I have one bullentin board of all student work. It is entitled: The Stars of Room XX. That board is dedicated to my students. The students display their own work, I do not choose what goes up there. They are also aloud to hang out an assignment from another class. The only rules of the board are the students can only have one piece up at a time, their is a folder for them to put more work in, so when their is room we can add more and that I empty the board about once a week. this board forces the students to take pride in their work.
    This is an 8th Grade special Education Classroom.
    I also have a weekly newsletter that the students write and distribute througout the class. We have an editor, pulisher and a photographer. The paper contains announcements about the students. It announces when they may have a soccer game or baseball game, the scores of the games, birthdays, school news or what is going on that week. Since the students do ALL of the writing for this paper, we do spend a great deal of time on it in class, but it encourages the students to write drafts, revise and also helps them with their writing.

    Other decorations around the classroom are:
    -A current Events board. I bring in the news paper and the students find current events, highlight, and them we staple them on the board. On Friday's we discuss.
    -Job Assignments-
    Pass out paper/Collect assignments / answer phone / sweep / etc.


    I have strayed way off topic. So I will stop writing now.

    Good Luck!
     
  13. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Jan 27, 2005

    Also, bear in mind that some of your students probably can't appreciate literature because of their silent reading strategies. If you read aloud as often as possible, they will begin to mimic your expressive reading style and will catch your enthusiasm. When you study an author whose style is quite defined and recognizable, have the students write a journal entry about their own lives but write in the style of the author. I love that Caught 'Ya book and have used it in the past. Now I just do daily calendar editing because it contains lots of American history which is great for my curriculum. You sound like a great teacher, Johnny.
     
  14. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Jan 27, 2005

    Upsadaisy, that last post reminds me of an assignment i had in my Spphomore English class... we had just finished reading "The Catcher in the Rye" (on our own, we were reading Great Gatsby in class)... instead of having to write a typical paper on it, we had an option to write a narrative in the style used by J.D. Sallinger. I recently found the paper I'd written... it makes me laugh to see what I'd written... I don't normally use that kind of language, but it was one of my favorite assignments. :)
     
  15. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    See .... and you turned out just great!
     
  16. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

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    Of course, i also *like* reading. :) But I think Catcher, in particular, is one a LOT of teens can relate to... and they LOVE having a character that "talks like they do..." It was a VERY fun assignment, and probably my favorite book I had to read for class. :)
     
  17. shardina

    shardina Rookie

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    Feb 4, 2005

    I am also new, 1st year in middle school. I appreciated all of your responses as I am always twitching about some way to give my literature studies a flare. Students looking at me as if I am UFO. Keeping them engaged is a quest and dialogue has been almost futile. Would love to correspond and continue to hear your great ideas. Just found this site today. Exciting! Thank you, Sara.
     

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