January 09, 2005

Dig A Hole

Hey fellow teachers, lend me your ear; and advice. What do you do when your "great idea for class" turns into mush?

I had thought to teach the girls in my third grade class to spin wool (with a whole lot of language learning thrown in almost under the table), beginning by showing them wool in all its forms, from dirty as it came sheared from the sheep, to nice clean carded, or teased wool. and then onto spinning it by rolling it on their thigh. Card, wool, comb, dye, spin, weave...there were a lot of words that could come from learning to spin and all come naturally. No cold definitions; warmth and actions.

Three kids and two responded to the thought of even touching the clean puffs of wool as one might to making cow pies into, well, pies. To top it off we didn't have a room and the noise level about us necessitated speaking at a roar, at least at first.

I know the idea wasn't too terrible; girls from other classes kept stopping by to ask me questions, but these two girls weren't having it. Their attention wandered, and they were bored to tears. And I didn't have a clue as to get their attention back toward me, and their work, and the learning I had planned. If they weren't going to participate, how could they learn?

Words need hooks; they need to relate to one's life. Spin as in spin on a spindle isn't required as a word in and of itself, but spin as in spin around, spin the wheel, spin a lot of things is. Weave, clean, dirty, sweet, hay, clover and how they relate and relating other words to them (clover, over, but cover, lover.)

In a larger class a few who "ughed" wouldn't be a problem; most or a good section would be interested in this (as was evidenced by the fact that many of the girls from other classes were highly intrigued) and the few who didn't would either just be bored or, eventually, would come around. But I have to keep everyone engaged, and it is so hard sometimes. Should I just always prepare two classes? What if both are dull as dishwater to them?

Anyway, I'd like to hear from other teachers on what they do with their children when something, which sounded so good and fun, is met with resistance.

Posted by Rachel Ann at January 9, 2005 12:46 PM

what i did during (1) my stint as substitute teacher in a primary school (2) stint as computer course instructor:
1. i wont let them out for recess if they refused to pay attention
2. i had no other choice but to concentrate on those who did pay attention to what i had to teach 'cos i can't let those who didnt to prevent me from carrying on with the lesson.

Posted by: the letter b at January 10, 2005 02:37 AM

I agree with "B" You are the teacher and its up to you what the lessons are. They do need to learn these things... and to they that really are seriously interested you may be exposing them to a great new thing that will alter their lives...

This happened to me with pen pals. My girlfriend had this pen pal that shed had to write to as a part of her class, came time to end the class, she was not going to answer the latest letter. I was shocked that she could dump another human being like that... so with all of the seriousness of a 10 year old I took the letter and wrote to her... I embarked on a life long passion that still consumes me more than 30 years later!

You just never know!

Posted by: Hokule'a at January 10, 2005 05:17 AM

Wow! What a fabulous lesson! How old are the girls? I think age and reason for being in class have a lot to do with motivation. (And I definitely think you should try that lesson again with other students!)

Honestly, the English lessons I've prepared were for older, motivated students. And even when they were bored, they applied themselves. Sometimes the lessons I thought were the dullest were the most interesting ones for them. Never can tell what will spark someone's interest.

With the younger ages (ones you can't just say, "Hey--pay attention or you're wasting your time), you might want to have them get up and do some full-body activity. Skywriting the alphabet, jumping jacks, whatever. If they are "too cool for school" types, at the very least they'll see your lesson as more bearable than the full-body activity! And for most of the other children, it will help get some energy out constructively and then refocus. (Just an idea. . . I've used it with adults, too.)

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 10, 2005 06:38 PM
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