Thinking out loud

This is my second year teaching high school English. Somewhere around the half way mark last year I through my hands in the air in the middle of a lesson and decided to trash two weeks of planning because the students were not having it. Instead I tried something new. The new lesson wasn’t all that amazing and left most of what would happen up to the kids, but it did give me diarrhea. Instead of learning about persuasive writing and speaking through the Civil Rights Movement, particularly Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech (which I had spent my entire spring break planning) I assigned the kids to create persuasive commercials that they would have to work in groups to write and act out for the class. It scary giving the kids that much freedom. Desks moving, loudness, some people working hard, others not working at all. It really made my stomach hurt.

Later in the year after doing a few assignments like the one above I came up with a lesson for the Harlem Renaissance that I particle stole from some other teacher I had read about. The lesson required the students to create an exhibit for The Harlem Renaissance Museum. The museum would be our classroom and the kids would become curators. They were told they could do what ever person, place, or thing they wanted and their ideas could be as off the wall as they could think of. The end result was madness! Kids created paintings and not some little crappy stuff, I mean full on bring the noise type of stuff that blew us all away. They made portrait busts, posters, miniature models of New York City (that were to scale of course), signs that lit up, . One group even made a grand piano out of cardboard that worked. I had students spending time and money that I didn’t know existed. They would show up at 6:30 in the morning and stay until 5:30 at night. They came in on their lunch breaks, during study hall, and during classes that they deemed “unimportant.” It was one of the highlights of my year. They had every other teacher, administrator, and student in the room looking at what they created. My big classroom with it’s 15+ foot ceilings were covered in exhibits. They still talk about it this year.

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~ by captainawsome on November 15, 2007.

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