Thursday, September 2, 2010

For the Love of a Lesson

As an English teacher, I often have to face the reality that some material is boring.  Unfortunately, MLA style just isn't compelling stuff; however, it's necessary.  And I generally try to emphasize the fact that there are just times when you have to learn something boring in order to get through certain tasks.

But some material becomes boring when it doesn't have to be.

I'm learning that students will learn more when they can relate material to personal experience.  When they don't have any personal experiences that relate, it's up to me to create them. 

The Puritan life is just one of those things that students don't quite get.  They are too far removed and there's no explaining "need" to people who have never needed.  In order to circumvent that problem, I created a simulation activity called "A Classroom Colony" (Teachers, if you are interested in my material, simply click on the "contact me" button to the right and email me.  I'm glad to share).

I always use this activity before I introduce any information about the Puritans, and it generally creates some pretty interesting discussion.  All of a sudden, they understand why people who disagreed with the Puritan worldview would stay in their colony.  It makes sense as to why the rules were so rigorous.  Plus, they appreciate teamwork and how hard it is to get others to cooperate.

My favorite part of the lesson?  Number four on the back of my sheet.  Basically, it says that I will not answer questions for the duration of the activity.  EVERYTHING is in their hands.

You'd be shocked at what they come up with.  Tomorrow, I'll be telling them whether or not they survived based on the information they had to provide by the end of the hour.  So far, I'm pretty positive that both of them made a decent go, but I'm not sure they survived past a week.  I'll try to remember to post what I share with them on my blog.

For my amusement (and discussion purposes), I generally write down what they say as they work through the activity.  Obviously, it's impossible for me to get every single conversation so I try to focus on the things that are most important to my purposes (Ha.  Evil teachers...always looking for that teachable moment). 

Fun quote from a 6th hour student today:  "You have to find the will inside your heart to survive."

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