Friday, March 26, 2010

One Trick Pony

One of the better lessons I've taught was the first in my middle school practicum.

It was a summer course, and so we were assigned to the district's summer school program.  It was a group of about 30 students repeating 8th grade.  Another student and I were assigned to the two teachers who co-taught the class.  Although some of the students were going into 8th grade and wanted a head-start, the majority were not interested in listening to me teach grammar, or anything else.  Nonetheless, I was asked to teach my first lesson on sentence fragments and run-ons.

It was the summer.  I had some free-time, and I was eager to please.  So I spent a lot of time planning.  I made a pretty decent graphic organizer.  I asked my fellow undergrad if she could play a small part in the lesson.  I prepared a formal assessment.  For my first lesson, I was doing alright.  Then I created a superhero alter ego to keep the students' attention.

The day for my lesson came around and we listened to Skee-Lo's version of "The Tale of Mr. Morton" before I presented a few sentences and we identified their subjects and predicates.  It was then that my colleague, AKA the Preposition Punk, wearing a clever construction paper mask (she was in drama, if I remember right) snuck up to the board and added "When" to the beginning of a sentence: 
When Mr. Morton walked to the store.
I read the complete sentence now transformed into a dependent clause to the class and proclaimed, "this looks like a job for CAPTAIN COMMA!" while simultaneously ripping open my button-up shirt (which was no longer button-up; I'd replaced the buttons with velcro) to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with this shield:
The students were dumbfounded, but I definitely had their attention.  I heroically slammed a comma after the dependent clause and added an indepent clause to complete the sentence and save the day. 
When Mr. Morton walked to the store., he bought a gallon of milk.
I handed out the graphic organizer and had them take a crack at it.

Fast-forward 5 years.  I still teach that lesson maybe once a year.  But it's the only lesson I teach that has that injection of edutainment right to the jugular.  The only one?  What's up with that?  Not that every lesson needs to have that element of theater to it.  It needs all the pedagogy my other lessons have, including things I missed that first time like a preassessment and differentiation.  But one lesson a year that keeps students' attention like that one, that creates murmurs throughout the hallways inbetween periods, that get students anticipating my class, is no where near enough.

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