The Feeling Of “Ugh”

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Feb
  • 02
  • 2011

The feeling of “Ugh.” You know the feeling. The feeling that you get when plans do not pan out. The feeling of “it’s too late to change now!” The feeling that things were not supposed to go this way. The feeling that reality does not match the vision. The feeling of not being entirely sure why. Are those the feelings of an average day for you, too?

In both of my classes right now, we’re into a certain way of running things and it’s not working. But the way I’m running things involved a lot of planning and I see where this could lead us and it’s where I want us to go. This ain’t the route to get there though, not exactly like this. I think there are some things I can do, though. But I wonder what you think.

Handouts

  • F451: Discussion Prompt 1 (Word, PDF)
  • F451: Essential Questions (Word, PDF)
  • OFOTCN: Essential Questions (Word, PDF)
  • OFOTCN: Section Paragraphs (Word, PDF)
  • OFOTCN: In-class Discussion (Word, PDF)

Happenings And Observations

On the one hand, it seems like I’ve focused too much in English 2 on an idea that my sophomores are not gravitating toward. They can gravitate toward it, but I don’t think I’ve provided enough scaffolding for us to have a proper discussion about it. We’re reading Fahrenheit 451 right now and I want them to feel strongly about the issues there. I either want them to stand up and say, “No! Books should not be burned, dang it!” or I want them to yell out, “It’s about stinkin’ time that books go away! They are such a waste of time!”

What I’m getting instead are largely glances of supreme disinterest. Those “yeah, so what?” looks. They can do better than that, I just need to figure out how to push them there.

The first group discussion prompt I gave asked them to talk about whether or not the firemen in the novel are being successful. The prompt went on to ask about why that society has decided to get rid of “conflicting theory and thought.” The written results of that discussion left me less than inspired. I think we could arrange a debate on the issue and get the blood flowing a bit more. There’s also a spot in the novel where Montag basically asks of his wife the same thing I’m asking of my students: “How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”

On the other hand, I’m asking my English 3 students to take in too many things, perhaps. We are reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest right now and I’ve broken the book into eight sections. For each section, there is a set of Essential Questions and a Section Paragraph to be completed as homework. Then we have a set of In-class Discussion questions to be completed, you guessed it, in class. They meet in groups and first discuss the Essential Questions for that reading, move on to their Section Paragraphs, and finally tackle the In-class Discussion questions together as a group. Then they report out on all of that stuff.

Now that I write it, that really doesn’t sound like a lot, but when most students come in with neither the Essential Questions answered nor the Section Paragraph written, they suddenly are striving to complete all of that work in the amount of time I give them to simply answer a question or two as a group.

What I’m getting instead are groups largely just sitting around talking about other stuff. They’ve got so much to do that they either don’t start or spend 5 minutes simply trying to decide which thing to tackle first.

So how do I broaden the focus in one class to be large enough to include everyone and narrow the focus in another class to give students concrete objectives to complete? I can do this. Open things up during my early classes and sift things out in my later classes. Anyone else having the case of two conflicting extremes at the same time?

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