This first week back to school has been awesome. Something is different this year and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.
I know that I can breathe a little better as I am no longer coaching debate and I only have two preps instead of three. I have way more brain space to use on English 11 and Public Speaking, which I’m thankful for.
In addition, I think this year I have more drive. Or maybe it’s will power? I’m not sure. But I haven’t given in yet. A lot of times in the past I have had all kinds of ideas I wanted to try in my class, but I give in to the feeling that the “kids won’t like it” or “the kids will think it’s lame”. This year I’ve decided, they WILL like it (I know, I know, that might be a stretch), because I’ll be excited about it. They’ve already seen me excited about personality tests, writing purposes, and Reading Minute articles. Some of these things were silly or uncool, but so far, everyone has been on board. And that’s motivating!
Monday I gave all my kids this version of a Color Personality Test and, besides the difficulty of adding up the correct letters, it was a success. I had my students put their top two colors on the corner of their “get to know you” index cards. Then I had them get into groups and discuss these questions:
- what are the strengths of your color?
- what challenges you?
- what three words would describe you?
I was amazed at how close they were to the actual descriptions for each color. We talked about how our differences might affect us in group work or in classes if our teachers are a different color, and I explained my purpose for having them take the test. For the most part, everyone was intrigued and engaged (we all like to learn about ourselves, after all).
The best part though, is that I’ve actually used these cards! I’ve used them to call on students when they meet in groups so everyone is held accountable. I’ve used them to create groups in Public Speaking. And they’ve helped me get to know my kiddos (and learn their names) because of the information they put on the cards on the first day! In the past when I’ve given a personality test, I pretty much never looked at it or thought about it again. This year is different.
In my Public Speaking class I took half the week to teach my kids about giving feedback. I learned last year during 2nd semester that this needed to be explicitly taught. I didn’t have to during 1st semester because the kids naturally tried to help each other, gave excellent feedback, and celebrated each other’s victories. Second semester, not so much. So, this year I took three days to read about, discuss, and practice feedback.
On the first day I divided the kids into four groups (using their colors). Two groups read articles (this one
and this one
) and two groups watched videos (this
). When they finished reading or watching, they discussed the following in their groups:
- what advice can you give for giving/getting constructive criticism?
- how can this advice apply to our classroom?
We came back together to make a list as a class. I wrote it down as we discussed and we came up with a pretty good list of guidelines for do’s and don’ts when giving feedback. The next day we went through the rubric, discussing the importance of each part. My rubric is only slightly adapted from PVLEGS rubric from Erik Palmer’s AWESOME book Well Spoken
(my personal Public Speaking bible). Then we watched three sample speeches from YouTube. We then “pretended” those speakers were in our class and gave them feedback using the rubric language. We worked as a team to reword some feedback, offer advice, and pick out something good to say about each speech. They did quite well, which was exciting. I now have hope for the semester. Fingers crossed! On Friday they were back in small groups for impromptu speaking, which allowed me the chance to hear some of their speaking and get to know them better by traveling around the room to speak to each group. It also provided an opportunity for the kids to give each other feedback. All in all, I feel good about the start to the semester.
I’m really excited about this year. I’m excited about the potential in each of my students. I’m excited about the potential in ME. Especially if I can stay in the frame of mind I’ve been in so far.
Here’s to a positive start!