Sunday, September 29, 2013

First Lesson

I hit a milestone on Friday, y'all. I taught my first (and my second) lesson in the high school classroom. I would like to say that I didn't mess the students up too badly, but I guess they would have to be the ones to tell you that.

Because I know that all of you are just dying to hear about this exciting and engaging lesson, I'll walk you through every step of it. So, this week I was with Ms. Drown's "on-level" classes, which if you are not familiar with that terminology, it is just the regular grade-level English class. They are currently in the middle of reading John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, as I think I mentioned in a previous post. They were supposed to be on chapters five and six by Friday, but I was forced to be flexible because upon entering the classroom on Wednesday, I was told that they would only be on chapter four. Unfortunately, because we are required to turn in our lesson plans 48 hours prior to teaching, I had already planned my lesson over chapter five, but I am quickly learning that teaching is a profession that requires flexibility. I won't lie and say that I wasn't a little frustrated, mainly because I had a mountain of other work to complete this past week, but I'll call it a learning experience. And now I definitely know the book well!

I wanted to do something somewhat interactive with this class - something that would engage them enough so that they weren't sitting at their desks working on study guide questions individually, but that wasn't so interactive that I would have a hard time keeping them on task.

Well, it turns out that I did have a hard time keeping them on task, but more on that later. I settled on a Jeopardy! style game with questions that ranged from being very surface-level, things you could find in the text, to the deeper "level three" style questions that made you think a little bit more about the novel and how it relates to society as a whole. I grew up watching Jeopardy! after school because Granny absolutely loved the show, so though I wasn't sure if these students had ever been exposed to the game show before, I thought it would be a fun activity to do in order to check for understanding of the chapter. I came up with three categories - In the Text, Thinking Deeper, and Thematic Concepts and Symbols - and had five questions in each category.

I am not going to lie and say that I was a bit stressed about time before the class even began. For one, the classes were a bit shorter than usual due to being on pep rally schedule, and I did not plan for the fact that my teacher wanted to spend around 20 minutes working on a short story peer editing activity. I also planned on having them listen to all of chapter four in class, which was around 40 minutes, and have enough time to play the Jeopardy! game. I felt like we were rushing through a lot of it, and we certainly didn't finish listening to all of chapter four, but we got through enough that almost all of the questions were answerable, and we had plenty of time leftover to play and really get into the game. 

The students really seemed to enjoy the game, and they really surprised me with how much they knew about the book. It seemed that listening to the book bored them, and I know if I were in their position I would have more than zoned out and started thinking about other things. But they seemed to understand the text on a literal level, and a deeper, analytical level, which was very encouraging for me to see and hear. It was hard for me to keep control of the entire class sometimes, but that will always be something that I need to work on. I don't have a very intimidating presence, and add that to the fact that I could probably pass for a sophomore in high school, and it's going to get a little bit crazy sometimes. My teacher even admitted to having a hard time controlling them at times, so I felt a little better about that! 

Overall, I loved being up at the front of the class, because I felt like I actually connected with the students on a new level. I love observing, but I didn't feel like I could actually joke around and laugh with the students until I was up there leading them in an activity. And while I thought the lessons went pretty well, and my teacher really seemed to like the Jeopardy! game, there is always room for improvement. The main point of improvement for me this time was how to make sure the entire class was actively participating, and not just sitting back and letting other students in their group do all of the discussing.

Page one of a very detailed lesson plan
It feels really good to have these two lessons under my belt, and I am looking forward to the remaining seven. I know I have a long way to go, but experiencing how well these went makes me feel a lot better about all that I have left!

I was met with this beautiful sight at the conclusion of my drive back over to UT
The rest of my weekend was spent lounging around my house and laying in bed, as I have been feeling pretty under the weather since Friday morning. I am finally starting to feel more like myself, and I think the fact that I got 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep on Friday and Saturday night, respectively, has something to do with it! After I sign off, I am going to have dinner at Whole Foods with a friend - my first Whole Foods trip of the semester. Have a great Sunday evening!

P.S. For those of you who are interested - I had to create a teacher webpage for my class at UT. Check it out here! I would be lying if I said I wasn't really proud of it, because I am usually pretty bad with technology, and I built this webpage all by myself!

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