180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

August 23, 2012 ,

“We learn from failure, not from success.”   -Bram Stoker

     I’m supposed to write about student learning.  Post examples of how students spent their time in 8th grade Language Arts.  Possibly wow others with the use of technology.  Well, that was my plan.  But as we all know, teachers have to learn and relearn an important lesson every once in a while: Things don’t always go according to plan.  No worries, my students DID learn in class today (I’ll prove it in a bit!), but it was I, their teacher, who took away a valuable lesson today.

Here’s how today’s first two periods went:

1.  Have students post details they discovered about the setting from Chapter 1 of The Hunger Games in a shared Google spreadsheet:  Check.

2.  Discuss the setting details, the words used, and the important passages from Chapter 1:  Check.

3.  Mini-lesson on Mood and Tone.  Use music students know.  Use scary movie video clip:  Check.

4.  Check for understanding at each point – how students feel, what aspects of the scary movie create the eerie and suspenseful mood: Check.

5.  Model how to read closely, looking for specific words that will affect the mood: Check.

6.  Have students take details from previous Google spreadsheet and analyze what mood their selection creates through using audio recording: NO CHECK

     The goal was to have students transfer their ability to determine mood from everyday life experiences and apply that to literature.  They had to make inferences.  They had to look at the little things.  And then they had to put into their own words how those setting details created a specific feeling.  This was a no-go.  I learned very quickly today my students are not ready for the next step on their own.  Making inferences is hard and I need to review this process.  8th graders aren’t usually detail-oriented.  Duh, Miss Kappler.

     It’s important for me and other educators to remember flexibility is key.  It’s okay to change plans after only a period or two.  It’s okay to throw out activities that took quite a bit of time to plan for and prepare.  We have to be willing to try something else, whatever it takes, to help them “get it.”  We have to do these things even if it means accepting the momentary feeling of failure and despair.

     After a few minutes of panicked “What am I going to do instead?” I went back to the drawing boards and revamped my daily plans.  Use more and other music and video clips: Check.  Check for understanding more often:  Check.  Prove to the students they are really good at determining mood with real-life examples so they surely can transfer this skill to literature: Check.  Model this skill at least 2 more times than before:  Check.

     While the finished product isn’t what I had originally planned for, the students were able to begin determining the overall mood from the details in Chapter 1.  Their “AHA!” learning moment came in a different form than I’d originally hoped to share here.  Instead of individually writing and recording a short analysis, the students added to the same Google spreadsheet as before.  The examples of a few spreadsheets are below.  I added the MOOD column in after my first two classes to show me they could actually see the connection between setting and mood.  Are we done yet?  No.  Do we need to go deeper?  Yes.  But not today.

Setting and Mood Spreadsheet 1

Setting and Mood Spreadsheet 2

Written by Katie Kappler, 8th Grade Language Arts


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I really admire the flexibility that you take to your lesson planning! It can be hard to let go of a plan that you took forever to create, but adjusting to your students can be one of the most fun challenges of teaching. Thanks, also, for sharing the spreadsheets–I never would have thought of teaching setting and mood that way, but it’s a great idea.


August 29, 2012

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