Continuing with my general spring plan (not that it’s all I’ll do, of course) for the next five months of this academic year, here is what I plan to do after the SSR (Part A) part has been completed, about 30 minutes or so into class. None of it is new, really:
Second section of class/Part B:
After the period of reading, discussing and quizzing on the SSR session, I will ENGAGE MY KIDS IN SOME FORM OF CI. This will often be in the form of a story, but of course it doesn’t have to be. We have so many options.
Here is one option to stories that requires no planning, which I haven’t really described on this site yet. I mention it here because it fits in with the general plan of totally effortless CI that is my goal here, and because I haven’t presented it here as yet. I think it’s pretty cool and a lot of us probably already do some form of it already.
The option is that if I don’t use a story, I’ll just do some in-your-face impromptu CI based on something that happened with a student that day or earlier that week. I no longer want to even THINK about planning a class any more. If I have some sort of routine like the one I am describing here, a routine that requires no planning so that I can watch and rewatch all the episodes of Breaking Bad in the evenings instead of thinking about what I am going to do in class the next day, I know I am going be able to fulfill my goal of learning to put my own relaxation and mental health first and my interest in CI second.
So the idea is to start the second part of class out with some random sentence that is connected to something impromptu happening in the class at that moment or that has happened earlier that day or week, something about the life of a student, something we can embellish. It could be that Maria saw a spider in the lunch room, that Jenny slapped Patrick, etc.
If I do that, I can just keep using questioning to make goofy things out of the stuff that the kids bring into class that day. All I need to do is carefully read those little signs that the kids send out as they come into class. It can be as simple as “James was running” just before class. I take that and then ask where (somewhere silly) and with whom (someone silly) and then create a problem and solve it and that’s that.
“James was running” becomes “James was running really fast next to the shark pool [sharks are students in the class] that is next to the school parking lot with Daffy Duck when Daffy started insulting him and so he kicked Daffy into the pool before saving him with the help of [some student in the class].” Actors [James, Daffy, the sharks] up and working. SLOW repeated personalized questioning fully at work here. Don’t make the story too long. You don’t need targets or to do PQA.
That’s all story telling is – finding out silly details about simple ideas via questioning using where and with whom, then introducing a problem, then going to two locations to solve it but failing, and finally solving the problem in the third location. So new people, have hope – that’s all there is to it, really. We improvise, we loosen up, we just talk to the kids to repeat Susan Gross’ perfect description of TPRS. May God bless our hearts, we learn to look upon this work of teaching in a completely different way, one that honors serendipity and the unexpected, and laughter, into our classrooms.
I may have found something out in the hallway earlier in the day, when Sully told his friend outside of my classroom that he ate ten donuts in one sitting on Saturday morning. Such an innocuous sounding thing holds CI treasure untold, as we all know. All I have to do is figure out the sentence before class, and then employ the where/with whom/problem/solve the problem pattern described above.
Once I have my sentence, I use the pattern to twist it into silliness, even if it doesn’t start out silly. Silly personalized CI is the high road to fun classes. I’ll find something new every day in each class. Kids are always conveying things to others in those subtle teenage ways they have as they come into class. Nothing is more important to a teenager (or anyone!) than to be noticed when they walk into a room, to be acknowledged in some way, and when a teacher is behind and encourages the discussion, that’s even better (as long as it doesn’t cross any personal boundaries with the student, as we have known for some time, of course).
So all I have to do is notice where the energy is that day, with which student or group of students, then create a “starter” sentence that has power in it, one that will have energy that day but not on other days, and power up. Once the energy fades during the discussion, even if it just lasts a minute or two, I know that I have the rock star plan of ROA to expand on whatever we create out of (the story or) that the starter sentence that we used to start the CI. ROA has so many steps to follow effortlessly for days after I have a story! Remember, effortless teaching is the goal here!
(For new people: in this work with CI all we have to do is create something in the TL, something that can consist of one or one hundred sentences, then write it down, and the kids read it, and that’s it. This work is SO simple.)
OK, rant over. In this second part of my mental health initiative all I have to do is talk to the kids in the TL using stories or this “starter sentence” idea as described above, or use a one word image, or Circling with Balls or one of the more than 20 other such strategies that we have at our disposal.
In the second part of my spring plan all I have to do is talk to the kids, and it doesn’t have to be a big complicated affair – it can be just a few sentences long, requiring only ten minutes of CI. Of course, I will always employ my story writer as usual so that I can then present what we created as a reading, and give them the quick quiz on the reading.