I’m now four days into student teaching, and things are working out a little better now for me. We had another day of grammar, and I was pleasantly surprised with how instruction went today. Sometimes you learn from failures – I’ve certainly done that this week – but it’s really nice to learn what does work.
Today’s lesson was on apostrophes, and I assumed that this lesson would require working out some of the common errors, mostly confusion between possessive pronouns and contractions that are homophones (e.g. it’s/its). Since there are a lot of different ways that our text covers apostrophes and I had already decided that I didn’t want to break up the subject into multiple lessons, I gave a pre-assessment of sorts that served as a formative assessment to determine how much instruction I needed for the different facets of the lesson. Consequently, I was surprised to find that the students in both classes (reminding the reader that these are honors sections) were very well apprised of standard apostrophe use, and I decided quickly that I did not need to go into rules or do practice exercises as extensively as I might have otherwise.
As a result, the lesson went much more smoothly, and it gave me an opportunity to start a new procedure. Yesterday, I had a really awful tendency to call on students with vague affirmative responses: pointing, saying simply “Yes,” “Go ahead,” or “Okay.” This vagueness didn’t work – a student directly in front of the one I was trying to call on would answer, and in one case, a girl on the exact opposite side of the room answered. It was very clear that it was not working.
So last night, I resolved to initiate the very simple procedure of requiring students to respond only after their name had been called. This is fairly typical, I think, and I should have been doing it all along since it helps clarify the student being called on and I really need to be forced to use the students’ names. The procedure was very much for my own benefit, and I made that clear. When we went through activities, I tried my hardest to remember names without the assistance of the seating chart and simply asked students if I couldn’t remember. (In a few cases, I forgot a second time – but I remember those names especially clearly now. Let’s hope that sticks.)
Being so candid with the students and leaving pretensions behind seemed to help; I got a little more playful banter from some of the classes, and it made the class so much more enjoyable. I was interacting so comfortably with students that I differentiated two students named Zach by calling one ‘Zach in the back’ (despite him only sitting one seat back from the other) and ‘other Zach.’ We all had a good laugh at that, and they teased me as well, especially when I forgot names the second time. Most importantly, time management wasn’t even remotely an issue – we moved through all of the material I had, and there was even a few minutes (about five or so) at the end of both classes that helped wind things down.
One more day of grammar tomorrow, and then we move on next week to review and a test. I’ve already basically prepared that test, which is mostly material provided with the text but includes one section inserted by yours truly to replace a section that the students aren’t being tested over. We also get more into American transcendentalism – so I’m off to make sure I have everything ready to go with that.
Here’s to hoping that tomorrow – and the days thereafter – bring more good habits for the classroom.