Tuesday, September 25, 2007

9/25 - Sad Reindeers and pink squirrels

Today was really good. Sumner joined me – I know him from Warped Tour, and he helps me out with shows and events locally throughout the year. He was sitting in today, wanting to check out what we do, as he might start teaching part time with us. It was great to have him – I noticed a difference just with another person being there with my 1st and 2nd grade group. They had a lot of fun today - they got to dig into their self portraits, taking the photos I took of them and cutting them up and manipulating them. We even busted out the glitter glue and stamps, though we haven’t quite got enough of system to delve into paint just yet. Their work turned out great though – I had each of them introduce themselves to Sumner at the beginning of class, we reviewed the ideas about community we had talked about before, then we talked about how their self portraits are suppose to be how THEY want to look and see themselves, not how other people do. The project turned out really great. Letting them get elbows deep in the art – and doing things that involve more than coloring – balances out the writing too.

Adrian rocks his self portrait!

My fifth graders came into the room with their team leader reprimanding them – they’d been having a rough day. I totally understand where their team leader is coming from, but it sets a tough tone for me to follow up with. They were a bit squirmy, and not all that productive on Monday, and since I was worried about their reluctance to write, I decided to drop my initial plan to have them work on their self portraits. I had them introduce themselves to Sumner as well, and then, without warning, went into my fun writing mode – I went from student to student, declaring them ‘something’: a dog with no hair, and angry clown, a purple pigeon, a pilot that was afraid to fly, etc. Then, as that character, they had to write an excuse note – it’s something I come up with last year, in part inspired by something I read of Frank McCourt’s, where he describes having a break through with his students, having them write fake excuse notes as a means to get them to write at all. Coming up with the characters was the result of some insomnia driven night of mine – and thus far, it has worked every time. The students initially laugh and are totally confused as to why I am calling Omar a Giant Ant, and why Brian is a little girl with arms that are wings, then they jump right into the writing assignment. I usually make it a bit of a competition as well – who can have the most out of control story without being gross or using guns. They totally got into it, they CAN write, they just need the right prompt - they need it to be presented to them in a way that is fun and shows potential. Considering how early it is in the year, I was impressed by how far they took it – we ended up spending the entire class writing then reading all the works together.

We also made up another analogy for the ongoing community theme in our class – our group thinks of ourselves as a group of astronauts on a space ship, and if we are messing around with glue sticks or talking, we’re probably gonna crash or burst into flames. A bit dramatic, I think, but who am I to judge…

Abel shares his story

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