Whether or not you’re a teacher, you know what it means when a teacher says, “I have a tough group of students this year.”
Teaching a tough group is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. A tough group can make a teacher question whether choosing teaching was the right choice. Teachers of tough groups lament the loss of instructional time to dealing with behaviors and conflict. Field trips are cancelled. Experiments become demonstrations. Group work becomes seat work. Thankfully, in most schools there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s only a year.
Next year that tough group will move on to the next teacher. They’ll try to split up some of the characters who make the group particularly tough, but there is only so much you can do and you can’t prevent kids from clumping together on the playground at recess or after school.
Sure, a tough group is hard on teachers, principals and the office staff. What if you are a student in this group?
Imagine having to spend all your school years with a group like this.
I taught the best writing unit I’ve ever taught in my life. We pretended to be real news reporters for our classroom news company, News4U.
Step by step in the perfect sequence at the exact right pace we developed the skills necessary to write a solid news article. Students chose their favorite article and drew an accompanying image and caption for a classroom newspaper that was distributed throughout the school. Teachers were amazed. Other students wished they could be in my class. Then we took it a step further and read the reports live to video so I could edit them together into our own news program.
During the final week of the unit I took the kids downhill sledding. The day before we watched our news program with all the other Grade 3 students, I told them one of my famous ghost stories.
For our end-of-unit review I asked them a few reflective questions. One of those questions was: What will you remember about this unit 3 months from now? It’s my way of asking what was your favorite part without saying what was your favorite part. Plus it requires them to think about what kind of information a person retains.
Now I’m not saying the unit wasn’t a valuable experience, but the two most popular answers were:
Sledding was awesome!
I love your ghost stories!
After returning the reflections to them asking that they please answer the question with a response about the writing unit, I got what I expected. They loved getting a hard copy of the actual newspaper and they liked watching the news program with the other Grade 3 classes.
I learned what I think a student will remember isn’t always what they really remember.