Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lesson Learned!

One of the constants in teaching freshmen is The Odyssey. Now the book does not have the entire poem, it has books 9-12 and then the last few where Odysseus gets even with the 100 suitors and gets to live happily ever after with his wife and son. I normally do only books 9 & 10 because it allows me to show how Odysseus changes after his encounter with the Cyclops and because there is a plethora of material that I teach so time becomes an issue. Last year I started out by having the students read Book 9 (Cyclops dining on Greek Sushi) silently and taking notes, then having the students listen to it before the test. That was not a great plan because half the class didn't understand the text until they heard the audio version. Duh, it's a poem for crying out loud. Now I wised up for Book 10-12 last year and was planning on doing it this way the next time around.

This year I did the same thing again, knowing they were going to struggle with the text, some of them anyway. I didn't want to cheat the readers out of using thier abilities so I planned for three days of silent reading and two days of listening to and following along in the book before the test. It went much better this time around, the kids who struggled reading it, understood it once they listened to and followed along in the book. The kids who knew the story really got it and I am hoping that I have a plethora of good scores and a paucity of flame outs on the book 9 test.

The other lesson I learned last year that I applied this year was the importance of breaking down the writing process into steps, my honors kids are ripping through their essays this year precisely because they went step by step and because they prewrote their essays, which is the big key. 30 minutes of prewriting = 3 hours of writing is the formula I told them and they totally bought into the concept. The result is that there was far less confusion and far less frustration with the process, which is good because the source material was challenging to say the least.

Reflection has its benefits when you take the time to do it.