Curiosity Box

I’m following in that long tradition–stealing a good idea from another teacher.
Here’s one from Janice Airhart, who says she stole it from someone else. A great idea for making it clear that focusing, paying attention, trying to remember, and spending a little time all pay off in improved memory!
And a good idea for injecting a little something unusual into the first day of class.

Learning is the Reward

I came across a great first-day activity that I’m going to try this year with my community college class.  Depending on its success, I might use it in my high school science classes as well.  It really could be used with any age and subject.

boxThe teacher I stole it from (aren’t all the best ideas stolen from other teachers, really?) didn’t name the activity, but I’m calling it the Curiosity Box.  The box will hold about 15 random items from my home.  As soon as class begins, I’ll begin taking items out of the box and laying them on the table in the front of the room.  I’ll announce the name and section of the class, but I’ll say little else and won’t comment on the items from the box.  Once all items are on the table, I’ll put them all back in the box, then close and set…

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Who’s in Charge Here?

Who’s in Charge Here?

Arriving Saltspring Island photo credit: irfy via photopin cc

Arriving Saltspring Island

I was just one of the crowd of people on the trip—old and young, fat and thin, First Nations and white people, male and female. We were off by bus and ferry to Saltspring Island for the day. My job was to blend in, to let myself be represented by students. They were in charge, and I was along for the ride. I didn’t know it would be so hard.   Continue reading

A Healthy Disrespect

A Healthy Disrespect literacy and GED students have enormous respect for text–too much respect, I think.

They may fear text, or be confused by it. They may loathe the printed word, and/or ignore it. They may have a hundred different coping skills to get around the fact that they do not read well, but they respect text. Continue reading

Reading from Life

Reading from Life

“What reading materials are appropriate for adult literacy students?”

reader MKat posted this question on my blog the other day, and went on to say, “I’m teaching my first teenage reading student now, and forcing ‘See Spot Run’ down his throat is not sitting well with me.”

My first, general answer would be “anything that the student is interested in and that you can stomach.” I would draw the line at porn and hate, but other teachers will have other boundaries.

Notice I said “anything you can stomach.” There is lots of reading material suitable for adult students that is not uplifting or useful, that has language and subject matter not usually considered appropriate for school use. If you can stomach it, and the student likes it, you are ready to proceed. Continue reading

Students Celebrate Their Supporters

Students Celebrate Their Supporters

Students’ writing improves when they write for an audience. When you find them an audience that is close to home and a situation that is meaningful, there are many reasons for them to get the writing right. If you make it safe for them to write (e.g., don’t bring out the grammar hatchet), not only will they make art (reflect, express and polish), they will display it for immediate feedback. 

In this activity, to honour and thank those who support them in coming back to school, students will consolidate and formalize part of their support system, and supporters will not only strengthen their commitment to supporting their student, but they will forge a connection with the literacy/ABE/GED program itself. Continue reading

A Restless Student Settles

A Restless Student Settles

Ken was restless. His legs and feet moved under the table so much that the whole table shook. Other students complained about the noise and the shaking. Ken was an extreme case, but ABE/Adult literacy classes are full of students who cannot easily sit still, and whose restlessness interferes with the learning of others. Continue reading

Fractions on Your Feet

Fractions on Your Feet

When students can match 1/4 with 25% with .25, you know they have some understanding of the value of each.

When they go on to the much more difficult matching of 79/1000 with 7.9% and .079, you know their understanding has deepened.

When you ask for an explanation of their work and they don’t start and end with “Move the decimal to the left two spaces,” you know they are on to something!

Here’s a social math activity that extends the skill practice exercises in the workbook and online. A fuller explanation and all materials needed can be found on page 92 here in Changing the Way We Teach Math. Continue reading

The Period and the Sentence

How do you know where to put the period? Use your brain. Use your ears. Use your whole body.

The period is near the top of the list of mechanical things to teach when you’re working with beginning writers. But However, it’s hard for students to grasp the idea of putting a period “at the end of a sentence” when they don’t have much of a grasp of what a sentence is.

Language Experience Approach

If I’m using LEA, I’m secretly glad that I get to teach periods from the start, Continue reading

Mandated Students

Mandated Students

judge 2They come because they have to.

Any of these people may have mandated students to your adult education class: the judge or their parole officer; their lawyer, hoping to make a good impression at a sentencing hearing; their social worker, financial aid worker, workers’ compensation officer, or other professional with the power to deny their request for benefits; parents who say if they want to live at home they have to go to school.

Unlike other students in your class, they are not self motivated; their motivation comes from someone outside the class, someone you have little influence on. Continue reading

How to Say “No!” to Your Teacher

How to say “No” to your teacher introduces students to a seven-step process for saying “No,” gives them some practice using prepared scripts based on common situations, and then assigns them the task of saying “No” to each other, and to me, at least once in the following week. (Detailed lesson plan, with scripts, here)

Seven Steps to Saying “No!”

The steps are surprisingly simple to articulate: Continue reading