Hello everyone. So this will be a blog relaying a few cool teaching techniques that I’ve figured out over the years. Seeing as my parents are public school educators and I’ve watched a lot of teachers succeed/fail, I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade. Tell me what you think, and if you like them, I have no copyright laws–feel free to try them out in your classroom, too, just like I will 🙂
(I remember this scene of the movie so vividly 😛 Scout’s face cracked me up)
Okay, so I thought this project was extremely rewarding and creative: it was my 9th grade English class (this is back when 9th grade was still in Jr. High here in Fort Collins) and we were reading To Kill A Mockingbird. I really didn’t enjoy the book during the assignment, but it has been a book that stayed with me over the years. If it wasn’t for this project, though, I wouldn’t have gathered or remembered anything about it. So our teacher had us put together a portfolio about our experiences while we read the book–journal entries, vocabulary we didn’t understand and looked up definition for, etc. Not only did this force me to do the reading assignment and recollect what I read, but it gave all of us students something interesting to talk about and explore during class. We initiated some pretty awesome discussions about To Kill A Mockingbird because of somebody’s journal entry they shared. On the front of the portfolio we had to create a title page with a drawing–something that was symbolic and meaningful. I drew a kid stomping on flowers, because of the scene where Jem Finch stomps on the neighbor’s flowers. I would’ve never remembered that scene, or the significance of it, if I hadn’t created that title page. The most impactful part of this portfolio project was that we had to draw a map of Maycomb–where the Finch’s house was, where Boo Radley lived, what the houses looked like, where the square was and the courthouse, all in relationship to each other. This forced me to do some intense close-reading, and I remember to this day what that map looked like and Boo Radley’s house looked like, and where the tree sat that was filled with cement.
Long story short, this was an extremely beneficial project my teacher had us do. It was time consuming, but it created a better understanding of the book. For long book projects like this, I think I’ll have my students create portfolios and be able to express themselves in creative ways, not just be like robots and read 50 pages a night and listen to the teacher talk during class. The most impressive part is that even like 7 years later, without touching To Kill A Mockingbird again, I STILL remember so many awesome details about it, and could probably write a paper about it, too. How many other books/reading assignments over the years can you say that?
Fast-forward a little: 11th grade English, in high school, and I’m in class with my favorite English professor. This is the first time we really had to learn the Romantic authors and the concept of Romanticism. Difficult, heavy subject. But this teacher went about it in an absolutely AWESOME way, and since I plan on teaching 11th and 12th grade English, I’m definitely going to keep this in mind as I teach Romanticism. Okay, so she brought chocolate to class–big king-sized bars, two for each us–and so that immediately grabbed our attention. All of us got a Hershey’s Special Dark bar, a Cookies n Cream bar, and a small tube of draw-icing. She had us open our chocolate bars (but no eating yet!) and started to explain: “There’s dark Romanticism…and the Transcendentalists…” She drew “Light” on one end of the chalk board and “Dark” on the other. “So think of it like dark and white chocolate–the Dark Romantics is Special Dark chocolate, the Transcendentalists are the “lighter” white chocolate like in Cookies n Cream. Just like it’s hinted in the name, the Dark Romantics talked about more gothic, darker subjects. Like Edgar Allen Poe in the Raven.” (We’d just read the Raven for class). She wrote “Poe” under Dark on the board. “Now write ‘Poe’ on one of your pieces of dark chocolate.” We all laughed as we tried to scribble “Poe” with icing on a block of chocolate. Then she broadened the subject–asked who in the class could think of another Dark Romantic we’d read. Hawthorne. Schiller. Goethe. We all wrote their names on chunks of chocolate. Then we did the same with the Transcendentalists. “Who’s the most famous ‘white chocolate’ Romantic?” she asked the class. I raised my hand–Emerson. The class shot off a collection of authors: Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Fuller. Then, as we ate each piece of chocolate and therefore an author, we had to write down one piece of work they wrote. To this day, whenever I have to remember who was a Dark Romantic and who was a Transcendentalist, all I have to do is remember what I tasted when I ate each specific author. I remember tasting Cookies n Cream to Emily Dickinson–so she must be a transcendentalist. When you say Hawthorne, I remember the bitterness of dark chocolate. Sensory memory is so much more powerful than simple memorization or seeing it on the page. I correlate an author to chocolate, and remember it so well and the information immediately processed in my long-term memory. Lessons like these are things to think about when you have to teach heavy subjects like Romanticism.
And now that I brought up chocolate, I will throttle you with delicious looking pictures of chocolate desserts:
I apologize if I caused any cravings, but I had to eat some chocolate after this post. See you all tomorrow! -Natalie