Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Make An Effort

Make An Effort

Friday is test day. We have them for four periods in the morning – 4 straight periods in one room with 30 thirteen year olds. No breaks. No room. It’s a wonderful day – quizzes generally mean quiet, and after 4th period we are done for the day. But do not underestimate the challenge of keeping kids pent up and thinking for such an extended period. Often this day ends up as one of our most diffcult.

Today they start out with writing an essay to analyze a short story that we read. We read it as a class, covering the board with notes and ideas. The next day they sat in their groups with a list of 6 questions to talk about. These are their ‘book clubs’ and they are to analyze and thoughtfully discuss things we are reading. I give them 30 ways to start sentences and respond to one another respectfully. I give them the questions they can use to provoke thought. I give them 30 minutes with their friends to talk freely, as long as it’s on topic. Then the next day they write an essay. I use 3 of the questions that they already talked about the day before. I outline the essay for them, so they basically have to just fill in the blanks. They complain. They are confused. They don’t get it.

“I hate Miss Klein. I hate her to her guts,” says one girl who didn’t participate in the discussions the previous 2 days and now resents being tested on it.

I feel incredible satisfaction when I get a good essay. When I get one that follows standard format. We have tested their reading levels and revised and edited their work. I have taught them to cite sources and to provide textual evidence for all of the points that they make in an essay. And seeing that they get it fills me with pride. So as the essay tests came in, 2 full pages in their careful handwriting, filled with mistakes and white out but brimming with EFFORT.

Make. An. Effort. That’s all I ask. If you try, you will succeed, I tell them again and again. If only you will try. If only.

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