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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hattie D., at Mt. Blue, November 16, 2009


     Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Hattie's class in the morning.  She was doing some frontloading with her students to prepare them for reading the novel, Monster.  
   The class began the period with SSR.  I saw a marked difference in these students.  I had observed them last year.  They were focused and highly engaged.  When Hattie checked on their progress, they had all read a good number of pages - silently and focused.  No goofing!   Last year they read 6,000 pages, this year 9,000 so far!

   Next, students continued to listen to a NPR tape on ghetto life.  This was a tape with two real ghetto children who were honest and realistic about their lives.  Hattie chunked the tape into meaningful sections and paused to ask clarifying questions and help the students make meaningful connections.  Life in this urbane setting is difficult for our students to grasp.  Mores of this culture is also difficult for them to understand.  However, Hattie's questions and modeling connections opened the door for her students.  After listening to the tape, the students filled in a Venn diagram comparing Urbane and Rural settings.

   As Hattie and I debriefed from the session, we discussed how the shift had been made with this group between this year and last year.  We kept coming back to the concept of "real" - audiences for writing, issues that are part of their lives, and reading they can relate to.  This seems so simple, and yet if you look at our curriculum - it is often loaded with topics students may or may not every need to know.  Language Arts tends to have more than its fair share.  How many of us have asked our students to pretend to be ___ and tell why___?  What investment is there for our students who have so many real issues in their lives and surrounding them?  Aren't we sending them a message - they are too young or too "limited" to deal with their own lives?  How do we help them transfer the strategies we teach them as they "pretend" in various roles?  Would it not be more useful to have our students use strategies on real situations and leave our schools prepared for life?  Does this connect to Wilhelm's essential questions?
    Something to think about!

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