Day 31, Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The thought reoccurred to me today that I need to develop some hand signals to remind kids to stay attentive during class. There were many drifting eyes and faraway looks today, and it would have helped if I had a few simple gestures that could have quickly helped the kids regain their focus. I will work on that in the next few days.
Oddly enough, even with the usual amount of student woolgathering, today’s classes, I thought – especially the 9th grade – were some of the best of the year. With the 9th graders, I have thoroughly enjoyed the new technology I’m using this year, and today was a perfect example of what it’s done for my teaching. The students are putting all their formal writings on their class blogs, and today we used the projector to look at a few of this week’s essays (works-in- progress, with the final copies due on Friday). It was – at least for me – a fantastic educational experience, especially because, in doing it, I stumbled upon a wonderful way to teach grammar. (I’ve been searching for such a way for my entire career.) On the screen I showed two websites side by side: a student’s blog with her essay, and a webpage describing some important grammar items. The first grammar item was "active voice". We read a brief definition of it, discussed it for a few minutes, and then studied the verbs in the student’s essay, looking for active voice. In just a few minutes, we were able to discuss all the verbs in the paragraph and decide if they were active (or passive) voice, occasionally checking back with the other website to remind ourselves of the definition. All of this was done very efficiently (no rummaging in binders to find a handout, no lost textbooks) and, I have a hunch, fairly effectively. In addition – and importantly — it gave us another chance to look at and praise a student’s work. Teaching grammar by examining and extolling a student’s essay: that’s the path I’ve been seeking for dozens of years!