Extra classes

Extra classes started this week, and the kids aren’t any happier about it than I am. Jenrika asked them if they had a good break, and they all just stared at us and then grumbled. When she asked if anyone did anything fun, they all said no and “we only had a week!”. Eek. I don’t blame them though. I thought that they had a week off, two weeks of extra classes, and another week off, but I was wrong. They had just that one week off and now have THREE weeks of extra classes before the “holiday” is over. Yeah, they definitely have a right to grumble. Everyone else in the school gets a month off, and they get a week. Brutal.

I thought it was hard teaching on a normal school day, but the extra classes are even worse because it’s THREE hours of the same class. If I didn’t have Jenrika to split the time with me, I would be losing my mind. Even so, by the end of each school day (noon), I just want to collapse into my bed and sleep until morning.

We were with class 10 for the first three days and used the time to tackle Julius Caesar. Shakespeare is hard enough for students when English is their first language… so we knew that we had some struggles ahead of us. The first day was a total nightmare. It’s like the technology gods were conspiring against us. We wanted to show the movie first so that the kids could be introduced to the plot that way, and we would fill in the gaps and details later.

The “conference room” where the kids pretend they’re not falling asleep because its dimly lit and I sweat excessively from the heat of the projector.

The video file refused to play on the smartboards, so we eventually stopped trying and relocated to the chapel to play it on the projector there. Okay, great! We got it to play… but the sound didn’t work. I got my bluetooth speaker and connected it to my computer (since we didn’t have the cable to connect the chapel computer directly to the speaker), and we tried to press play at the exact same time on both computers so that the sound and video would match. So the chapel computer was playing the video on the projector, and my computer was playing the sound on my bluetooth speaker. Ideal, right? If you’re thinking that’s the end of the struggle, think again.

With about 40 minutes left, the power went out… which means the projector stopped running. At that point, I was determined to finish the stupid movie. I just wanted to get it over with so that we could move on and never have to deal with the video file again. My horrible solution? I held up my tiny computer and had the kids crowd around for the rest of the movie (but what other choice was there?). I chimed in whenever something important happened to explain it, and we somehow managed to slog our way through. It didn’t quite go as we had hoped, but a horrible first day meant that things couldn’t get worse.

The other two days went quite well actually, and I’m not just saying that because I’m comparing them to the first day. I think that we’ve mastered the story teaching technique. This is how it goes:

  • Introduce the story and give any important historical context, etc
  • Talk about where in the world the story is taking place. Show a map.
  • Introduce the main characters and give the most important information about them.
  • Define the most important vocabulary words… the ones that, without understanding their definitions, the kids won’t understand the story (for Julius Caesar, examples would be: assassinate, betray, democracy, dictator, etc).
  • Give a brief but thorough plot summary.

If you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s a long process, and you haven’t even started reading the story yet!”, you are correct. Okay, continuing on:

  • Read the story, pausing every few lines to explain in different words what is happening.
  • Ask questions about what happened in the story, walking the kids through the plot again.
  • Show a video that summarizes the story again.
  • Talk about the character traits.
  • Have the kids answer some questions in the textbook about the story.
  • Write out a plot summary for the kids to copy into their notebooks.

In case you weren’t counting, that’s about five times that you go over what happens in the story. FIVE TIMES. At least I finally figured out what works, just in time for me to leave. Jenrika said that she likes my strategy though, so maybe it will live on in my absence.

Post-school relaxation swing… on the roof!

By the end of the third day, they were doing a satisfactory job of answering our questions about the story, how the characters must have felt, and why different people decided to act the way they did. It only took 9 hours of class, but we did it! That’s nothing short of a miracle. I also learned a lot because I never read Julius Caesar in school, so I had to learn the whole story along with the students. Thank you, sparknotes! Though I will admit, understanding Shakespeare was surprisingly easier to do now than it was back in high school. I guess I have learned something over the last… 8 years…

Next up, three fun-filled (said with much sarcasm) days with class 9! I have my fingers crossed for a pain-free experience.

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