Thursday, May 31, 2012

The House of Dies Drear: Day 1 Reflection

Today we read chapter one. The first two classes seemed very engaged in the story. I saw no students looking around or seeming to be off task. After those two classes though I started to notice the last three being less engaged. The later in the morning it became, the less engaged they seemed to be.

When I noticed one particular class having trouble, I decided to talk to them about it and see if they had suggestions to make the time work better for them. I had a couple suggestions. The first suggestion was to allow them to bring comfort items like blankets. I think this is a great idea, but because of the way summer school is set up (I have 5 different classes twice a day) I don't see where I could have them store (or keep track of) the things. This is a real problem in classrooms where specific subjects are taught and students rotate in and out. The students have very little opportunity to make those rooms feel comfortable.

The second suggestion was allow them to eat. This is interesting on a couple levels. First, the students are receiving free breakfast and lunch during summer school. Second, I never told them they couldn't bring food in and eat it, they apparently made the assumption it wasn't allowed. Again, it is very hard for them to bring things to eat because they have no place to store it (no lockers during summer school.)

Do you have any suggestions that could help me make the students more comfortable and more engaged with reading the book? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The House of Dies Drear

I am teaching the novel The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton in summer school this year with sixth through eighth grade students. Originally, I had planned to teach the book like I have taught others in the past. I would read aloud a couple chapters and the students would do some skill work based on whatever I wanted them to work on. In fact, the first lesson was going to be a simple friendly letter.

When I came home tonight I was reflecting on getting the students to write tomorrow when I realized that what I really want my students to get out of this month is to have a fun time reading a story. I think that teaching a novel by breaking it up and working with skills takes away from the "flow" of the story. To a certain extent I think we lose the author's voice when we continually pull the students out of the prose.

I decided tonight that we are going to read the book aloud from beginning to end without stopping for skills work. I won't ask directed question, point out figurative language, or even talk about character development. I will simply share the words as the author has written them. (I will answer any questions students ask about the story, just like I would do if I were reading it to my daughters at bedtime.)

So here is the first written lesson plan for summer school:

Background: None

Objective: TSW enjoy reading the first couple chapters of The House of Dies Drear.

Activity: The student will listen to me read the first couple chapters of The House of Dies Drear.

Guided Practice: None

Independent Practice: None