Update: I intended, but didn’t, include guardians in the list of those who are stakeholders in a child’s education. I apologize to the many wonderful people who care for children and hold titles other than parent, such as “Grandparent,” “Aunt,” “Uncle,” “Sister,” “Brother,” or “Foster Parent.” Please know that I recognize the incredible contribution you make to children’s lives and regret the oversight. I was so focused on my experiences with my son that I did not weave guardian into the post.
Every parent is also a teacher and has at least one student: a child. During the formidable first years, the parent is the primary educator. The child looks to the parent first for guidance, learning how to walk, talk, eat, etc. This little person spends a great deal of time watching, experimenting, and mimicking until one day, the actions make sense. Then, while Mom is cooking in the kitchen, she hears uncertain footsteps clopping on the floor and turns around to see the baby standing there, watching her. Dad, beaming with pride, is standing behind the baby. (What a moment that was!)
Most parents start the process of relinquishing at least part of their educational responsibility when they enroll the child in school. The first time the little one walks into a classroom can be a painful and frightening moment for both, for a part of the relationship that is now changing drastically. The parent becomes a partner with a stranger who, although a professional educator, is still completely unknown. The child needs to acclimate to a new authority figure, a new routine, and a new space. Some do not go gently into that situation; others take to it like a duck upon water. I cried for some time after dropping my son off for his first day in Kindergarten, even though he had been in preschool for two years. That first day made it official, in my mind: I had gone from primary teacher to secondary for at least 9 months of the year. My son would now spend more waking hours with a caregiver other than me. Like many parents, I also had to accept the fact that I would not know everything that was happening during that time.
As students enter the classroom on Day Three, they would find a discussion prompt on the whiteboard:
What were you thinking yesterday while we read? Be honest and share it with your neighbor.
After five minutes, I would open the floor so students could share their discussion. In my classroom, I would like to encourage students to be honest and forthright about their thoughts and develop metacognitive strategies that, in the end, will tell them much about their learning styles, interests, and thought processes. Therefore, I think this discussion question would be a good one. I would allow for about 10 minutes of group talk.
I suspect we would hear answers such as:
I was bored and thinking about the party this weekend.
I was thinking that these characters are flat (or stupid, in for a lot of trouble soon, sad, etc.)
I was wondering what was going to happen next and feeling bad for the characters.
I could not follow what was happening and ended up zoning out.
I thought Steinbeck did a good job integrating character description with the story.
I could see certain characters, but not others.
After the discussion, in which we could offer one another advice or try to address any challenges, we would again read for about fifteen minutes and try to come up with questions. I’ll live blog my questions after I finish reading like I did last time.
Finally, they would have homework, which would include reading to a certain page in the book on their own and generating two questions to discuss the next day.
This blog post is an example of a lesson assignment I would give if I flipped my classroom while we studied The Great Gatsby.
After studying the lost generation and other cultural issues related to the novel, we would need to start reading. I believe reading aloud in class is a good strategy and would want to do that in class. However, chapter one of the novel is quite daunting, so I would prepare my students to conquer chapter one with an activity that combines reading with vocabulary attack strategies.
Their preparation activity would be to go through the following Prezi, so they would know what we were going to do in class over the next two or three days. Please note that I converted my text to speech for the Prezi below because it is 4:54 AM and my family is sleeping as I write this post, so I could not record my voice without waking them. Perhaps at some point I will replace the voice over, but do not have time at the moment. There may be some pronunciation or cadence issues.
In class, we would follow this procedure. The students would practice valuable skills (namely, deciphering words that are unknown to them within context) as they read (and re-read) chapter one. The entire activity is authentic, in my opinion, as students will encounter unknown words throughout their lives and need to know that going to the dictionary is not always the best first step.
While they are working on vocabulary and comprehension, I would have many opportunities to assess the students through observation and discussion. I could modify approaches based on the students’ needs by scaffolding the activity with teacher and peer support as necessary.