Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fall 2013 Week 1 - Class rules and acrostic poems in high school

Class rules / Acrostic poems

The first week is done. Unlike other EPIK teachers, girls middle school and regular high school's semester began on Tuesday. I taught two classes on Tuesday, four on Thursday,* and four on Friday.** The schedule hasn't been set yet, so we'll see what happens next week. Typically, schedules don't get written until after the semester begins. Every semester has begun with a provisional schedule that becomes a regular one. The first few days are often exciting as a result.

The high school classes went well. Despite the lack of time off, it did feel as if we're in a new semester instead of a continuation of the old one. It felt good to be back in class and getting the 2nd semester going. The students have shaken off the restlessness of the last days and have begun anew. They're paying more attention now. 

For the first week, I kept it simple and limited the lesson to reviewing the class's rules and showing the students how to write an acrostic poem about themselves. I did so because it took little prep work and was easy to add to my already-written intro lesson about rules and procedures. Classes went like this:

Intro/Saying hello

This is typically the first two minutes where everyone's getting settled in. I'll say hello and check to make sure everyone has their materials. Sometimes we'll talk about the weather or school events. I'm going to do more during this time by implementing so short "Do now" tasks because the 10 minutes they have between classes is time enough to mentally prepare and move to the classroom.

Rules/Overview of new semester

My rules are simple. They abbreviate to STABS:

S peak at appropriate times [in English]
T reat others with respect
A rrive on time
B ring materials
S tay on task

When I wrote the list, I looked for the smallest amount of words and the words that were easiest to understand in isolation and in the full sentence. I also phrased them positively to avoid putting anyone on edge with a series of "Don't" expressions.

Poem definition and demonstration

I used this image from Read Write Think, an excellent resource site, to explain and demonstrate an acrostic poem:

I also showed them an acrostic poems about Korea. And to show how they could write poems about themselves, I showed them what Benjamin would look like as an acrostic.


K nowledge industry
O ceans, rivers, and streams of clear water
R olling hills and mountains of luscious green
E ating delicious barbecue and kimchi!
A lways changing

The beginning line was blank until the 3rd class because I couldn't think of a good line that began with a K-word. Luckily, Michael, a 2nd grader, came by after class finished and said, "How about 'knowledge industry'? Korea has much knowledge and many industries. We are smart!" I liked his line, so I wrote it in and added his name to the credits.

The idea was for the students to describe themselves in the space of the poem.

Poem drafting

Writing takes time. I make sure to give the students plenty of time to write anything and circulate the room with the co-teacher to offer help and direction anyone who needs it.

Poem final draft/decorating

I'm planning on decorating some of the room with the students' writings and thought this acrostic poems would be a good place to start. Rewriting the poem also helps spelling practice and word choice. I've found that rewriting things leads to a better draft because in rewriting something, I'll inevitably think of better ways to phrase things. For the students' purposes, it gave them a chance to draw their words larger and add some pertinent decorations.

I'd planned on doing a poetry slam at the end, wherein the students would take turns reading their work and the audience would rate the best one, but we ran short of time in every class but one. Maybe next time we can do it. If I run through the introduction and rules quicker, we can probably squeeze in a reading. The one class that did feature a reading went well. That class has four girls in it who have gotten better and better as of late. They used to go off-task and distract each other, but thanks to some joking and positive attention via questions in class, they've been paying more attention and speaking more. All four of them turned in good work. 

The poetry went well. The students have now written a poem in a foreign language. The sense of accomplishment from having done an English poem was palpable. While poetry's not an "everyday" skill like, say, booking a hotel room, it is a literary skill. It focuses on word choice because every word counts in a poem. Above all, it allows the students to express themselves and learn something new at the same time.

* High school
** Girls middle school

What I'm teaching this semester:

High school grades 1-2
High school night class (Grades TBA)
Boys middle school grades 1-3
Girls middle school grades 1-2

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