Trying new teaching techniques scares me at times. I wonder, how will the students respond? How will the other teachers respond if they hear loud noises coming out of my classroom? As a new teacher, these questions and self doubts can be laborsome at times.
Yesterday, I started focusing on grammar. I know that the CRCT is 40-45% grammar, so the students need to master these standards. Well, grammar, sadly, is my least favorite thing to teach in language arts. I love literature and writing, but the rules of grammar leaves me wanting. So, what is a teacher seeking to become a teacher of excellence do?Well, change my attitude, and make it fun!
I asked around and was offered the book, Mechanically Inclined, by Jeff Anderson. After skimming the text, I found several fun ways to teach the standards. I began with the Common Core Standard for 6th grade ELA: L.4.1f. Produce complete sentences, recognizing and correcting inappropriate fragments and run-ons. The lesson was called “Two-Word Sentence Smack Down” on page 64-65 in the textbook.
Basically, you conduct a mini-lesson on what comprises a complete sentence, which is a subject and a verb. The students, working in pairs, hunt through a text of your choice for short concise sentences to write on a sheet of paper. (I gave them bright green paper to write on with markers to write with in hopes of making it more fun). Next, they underline the subject and circle the verb. Once they have finished their ten sentences, they choose one sentence to share with the class. The groups are given two more sheets of construction paper. They write the subject on one sheet and the verb on another sheet. You, the teacher, then hang up a t-chart (I made mine out of bright orange colored butcher paper) The title at the top of the t-chart is “Sentence Smack Down!” The left side of the t-chart is titled “subject” and the right side of the t-chart is titled “verb”.
The pair of students come up, and one student reads the sentence. Next, you can either play music or have all the students do a “drum roll” with their hands on their desks. The drum roll continues, and the first student “smacks” the construction paper with the subject listed on the t-chart, and yells out the subject. The second student then “smacks” the verb on the t-chart and yells out the verb.
WOW!! It was so much fun, and the kids had a blast. It allowed me to go into a quieter lesson today with fragments, which was more traditional.
I must mention…I was totally paranoid that I was disrupting the entire 6th grade hall, but I felt confident that I was reaching the kids.
Yes, it would be easier to do quiet subdued lessons everyday, for the teachers sanity, but what about the kids? Using unusual or out of the box teaching strategies can be scary, but I believe that middle grades students need the unusual, despite our own personal fears about it.
So….I will continue my search for the unusual, let my fears go, and teach!