22 September 2011

Divide and conquer

I cannot handle a class of 25 freshmen after 1:00. OK, 22 freshmen and a couple of sophomores and juniors. I haven't had a class over 22 in over 3 years so, yes, I'm spoiled. And to pile all of those kids I've never met into one class at the end of the day, I have 3.5 other preps (Debate being the .5), not to mention the hiccuping fetus the size of a large eggplant...AND no AC.

On top of that, the curriculum says these are the kids that need to learn school supplies and household items, so I'm trying to get them to assemble supplies to ship to a school in need in Colombia.

In short: I am in over my head.

In a moment of exasperation, I had students write me letters (not in the TL, I'm afraid) explaining what this project means to them and how we can make it work. By and large, the response to the former was "a lot" and "helping people is good." The response to the latter consisted mostly of "grow up," "focus," and a few suggesting smaller groups.

That is how I will have to handle this, I thought. Not as 25 at a time, but 4,4,4,4,4, and 5. I used our Sternberg results until I ran out of creatives and analyticals. I tried to make groups that would not kill each other that were also heterogeneous in ability (the sort of grouping I've heard prescribed for learning new materials, homogeneous being for review). I let them write on cards whom they would trade out and then whom they would trade in, but I'm just keeping those until I see problems that do appear to be caused by group dynamics.

All of this would probably be fine, were it not that we had a copying crisis declared in our district. I've found many ways to cut back, sending most things out on Edmodo and projecting the rest. However, activities on the projector = whole class activities, which, by the transverse property of equality = my mind exploding.

So of course, 10 minutes before the end of lunch, I have a brainwave as to how to do the semantic mapping/group planning activity A) without the interactive whiteboard (for which I had already finished setting it up--of course) and B) without making copies which students would have to cut up and leave strewn about my room. I enlisted Glogster for something much less glorious than its usual fanciful projects.

I took all of the items that all of the groups said they wanted to pack into backpacks for La Laja and added them to a glog, text item by text item. I made 2 categories: "mi grupo" and "todos grupos" so students could add items to "mi grupo" if the school would not need tons and "todos grupos" for things they would surely need a lot of. AND they deleted the things that we had decided were "imposible" to ship based on fragility or liquid content. Each student did their own glog, meaning they had to talk about the vocabulary. They also added something to represent the group name they'd picked previously for a little extra solidarity.

The lab happened to be open yesterday. It is not likely to be open every day. Also, technology cannot save everything. Part of my problem is also that I have been letting my plans flounder a little too much because of all of the unknown territory. So now, I must set some solid goals, some outcomes for this unit, aside from shipping some packages to Colombia. Having spoken with my Twitter contact in Colombia via Skype, I can at least say that we need not worry about sending too much of any one thing.

So here are the goals:

  • Get students to bring in as many of the supplies from their lists as they can by Thursday .
  • Have students write "apology notes" (that probably won't send) about things we can't send and why (more semantic grouping!).
  • Get a list of October birthdays (so our classes can sing to each other!)
  • Obtain (donated?) backpacks for each group
  • "Quiz" individuals by having them name things as they go in the backpack or as they take them out
  • Weigh backpacks and calculate postage (in Algebra?)
  • Plan how to obtain postage (local churches? fundraisers?) by group?
  • Learn birthday song in Spanish?
  • Brainstorm introductory vocabulary/phrases in groups
  • Learn about "nosotros," "nuestro," and accompanying verb forms
  • Write class group introduction letters
  • Learn about "yo," "mi," "me gusta," and accompanying verb forms
  • Create individual/group? introductory videos: familia, amigos, escuela, comunidad
  • Plan skype questions for children (ustedes, su, les gusta, verb forms)
These could take a while to accomplish, but now, I think I'm starting to get a picture of where this is going and how to split up the class to make something worthwhile happen. I'll just have to remember to do as much through their groups as I can.

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