I know I’ve posted before about how difficult this first year of teaching has proven to be. Fortunately, my teaching portfolio has been turned in, my accessor has observed my lessons and written my evaluation, and there’s nothing I really have to do this term except teach. It sounds a blindingly obvious thing to say, but not having those other pressures means I’ve had so much more time to focus on my teaching. And, to think about creative ways of engaging my students.
Sometimes it’s just the little things that pulls them in. For example, if you give students vocabulary words to learn in a list, or as homework, they dread it and begin to think of language as a dull duty. However, if you wrap up your words and present them as a gift, the students begin to anticipate what the word might be. I tend to draw a gift box and a bow on top, and the students start guessing the word as I’m writing in the box. My Year 7s love this, but even my Year 10s have been drawn to the idea (while still remaining very chilled, of course). It’s the same thing with the Text Talker Cards (not my creation…found online from a fabulous teacher). If you ask a student to embed evidence from a text, they say “uggghhwuht?” But if you ask them to use the card, and make a game out of it, they learn to use quotations effectively.
My Year 7s had a speaking and listening assessment on Friday asking them to perform Hamlet’s great ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy in whatever fashion they preferred. I had shown them three different actors doing three very different interpretations, and it was delightful to see that most of them had really considered what kind of emotion he would be feeling. While I had intended on spending the whole class assessing their performances, I felt compelled to show them the marginalia in Nelson Mandela’s copy of Shakespeare that he had with him in prison. We looked closely at what he had marked and what it might mean, and while I watched and marked performances, they wrote some truly outstanding essays.