The class of insanity!

I am in fact insane. I know, I’m a “first year teacher”/first latter part of the year teacher or something. One thing about first year teachers is that we overestimate what we can do, we’re idealistic, etc.  State tests are over! We’re in the home stretch, and I see more possibilities with my time left over.  I have a sense of the class personalities, and I’m trying to get my lesson plan choices to reflect what I know about the classes.

Thus, out of four classes, two are doing the same thing. 

I’m experimenting with lit circles in my “advanced,” well-behaved class.  They chose from a few books, and we split into groups according to their book choice. The books they are reading are Walk Two Moons, Maniac Magee, and The House of Dies Drear.   (I had a couple more for them to choose, but the majority of the class was interested in a “horror or ghost story,” so…  I have two groups for Dies Drear, a creepy mystery about an Underground Railroad house.)

I’m giving the kids freedom to set their own pace, do a lit log  vs journal format (** definitely something to start the year off with, NOT end it**) and discuss the book together.  Giving the kids freedom means I give up control, so I worry about the pacing for most groups (one group is uber-responsible, the others stress me out!)  I told them it was an experiment for both them and me, and I’d help them along the way.  I gave them a rubric and I’m guiding them along; the only way they’ll fail the project is if they turn in nothing.  I wish I had more time with them!!! AAUGH!!!!

My fourth and sixth periods have Maniac Magee.  These classes are not readers; plus, they’re my rowdiest groups.  I’ve been amazed at the improvement since starting Maniac.  Although they have some recall issues (and understanding, no, Maniac is not racist), they’ve done really well in general. Miraculously, I’ve let them work in groups!  I am hoping some of Maniac’s  lessons will seep through and help them understand the world a little better. MM is the sort of book every kid should read…

…which really makes me regret reading Hatchet with my fifth.  They’ve asked before when they’d be able to read  Hatchet,  so I was excited that they showed interest ahead of time.  There are a few very active boys in this class, so I hoped they’d like the survival story.  Well, the kids who are reading LOVE IT. When the others kids calm down long enough to read/listen, they go, “Huh. This is a cool book.”  It seems like this is my class with the “We’re OUTTA HERE” attitude.  I get it, but c’mon. I’m not making you do worksheets or anything, enjoy the book!

SO… my separate planning was insane to take on. But I’m glad I tried this. 

  • In the future I’ll be ready for two whole group novels. (Right now, it seems like I’m dropping balls in the juggling act. But I know I can do it now!)
  • I’m glad for the experience on lit circles and lit logs. The whole thing is an experiment, and I know what I want now. Again, no one will fail unless they don’t bother. I feel like this has been win-win, even if it’s had its pitfalls.
    • With the lit logs and lit circles, they’ve been more independent, and have been able to play to their strengths. I didn’t have to pull teeth to get interest in a book. They’ve engaged themselves.
    • Note to self: House of Dies Drear  needs a little bit more guidance. It’s a great book for my advanced readers, but it still had them scratching their heads a lot.
  • A huge advantage to this: I’m not bored, by any stretch of the imagination!
    • Now, in an ideal world, I would prefer my fourth/sixth to be consecutive. I think this is part of the reason I’m frustrated with my Hatchet class, which comes in the middle. The books have two totally different tones and themes.  They don’t fit well together at all.
  • I feel like I really nailed the personalities of the classes,  with the possible exception of fifth (which I think I did okay with the choice, but I’m not as confident about this class as I am the others). The novels fit the classes. The books are touching people in a way I didn’t expect.  I feel like I reached kids where they were, and that makes me happy.
THE VERY BEST PART OF THIS MONTH: No, it’s not the satisfied exhaustion at the end of the day. 😉  I love the kids’ reactions to the books. There were two in particular I thought were awesome:
*One student wrote in her journal that she really didn’t like reading, but she was really enjoying Maniac Magee.  “I think I’ve changed my mind on reading. I really want to see what happens in Maniac.” She asked today if she could borrow a copy (I only have a class set plus ratty extras) because she couldn’t wait to find out what happened to him. “HALLLEUUUUUUUUJAH!”  I’ve done my job if I’ve changed someone’s mind on reading! 😀
*One girl was hesitant about reading Walk Two Moons and I was hesitant to let her since the book would hit close. I let her take it home versus reading it in a group so she wouldn’t have to deal with sensitive stuff for a grade. She thanked me for letting her read it: “I’ve never been touched by a book like this before.” I may save the rest of her comment for a W2M post. Let’s just say, I cried almost as much reading her journal response as I did reading the novel.

Yes, I am unquestionably crazy, but this was worth (almost) every minute.

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