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Day 98: A little bit of context for you
By Mark Heintz
Jan 21, 2020

Day 98

Student voice provided by Natalia

I use to be a bit of an over-planner. By a bit, I’m understating it. I would have the entire year planned before I started the school year. Sure, I would make changes; however, for the most part, the year was planned. While I still have a plan and generally know what I’m doing, I change things all the time. I’m at the point where I teach my preps throughout the day very differently based on what happens each period and the students that make up the class.

A problem — or maybe a positive — of this change is I’m constantly thinking about my classes. There isn’t a moment that I’m not thinking nor reflecting on what I could be doing.

Today was no different. As the class was about to start, I opened my desk drawer to write a student a pass. In the drawer, I saw a stack of unused sticky notes I have had in there for a few years. I handed the sticky notes to a student and told them to pass one to each student.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them, but I wanted to use them. I was going to teaching on the fly today.

As the bell rang, I told the students to write any word we have learned in this class on the note. I told them to keep it a secret. They got up and put it on someone else’s forehead. Don’t worry, I asked if anyone would prefer not to have it on their head. Then, they played a variant of headbands.  They asked each other questions in an attempt to guess the word that was on their head.

Afterwards, they were in groups of four and wrote a paragraph that connected all four terms together. They attempted to contextualize the class for someone who had never been in it before. They had an audience and a clear prompt. As Natalia put it, I believe in class we are doing well on covering writing techniques for the AP test and how to receive the most points. Instead of stressing over grammar and how to sound sophisticated, we can focus on what to include like explanations, evidence, etc. to do well on the exam.”

I hope what we are doing will lead to clearer writing in their lives and not just for the AP exam.

After they wrote their paragraphs, they moved on to writing a similar paragraph only for a different topic. The paragraphs were great. The students understood what they needed to accomplish and wrote clear, concise paragraphs.

Next steps: Natalia requested, “Something I could work on is reading the passages once rather than multiple times to answer questions because sometimes when it doesn’t interest me it goes right over my head and I have to go back and waste time reading it all over again.” Again, people learn best when they are interested. However, tomorrow I will work on how they can get at what Natalia is asking for. As I said earlier, I’ll be thinking about it until the bell rings tomorrow.

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