BACKGROUND INFORMATION: A VIGNETTE
At 8:00 am Monday through Friday I walk into my classroom door, planner in one hand, coffee and duffle bag somehow balanced in the other, heading to the whiteboard in the front of my classroom to write my objectives for the day. After tediously writing out objectives for all nine blocks of time in my day, I always find myself wondering if my plans will be interesting enough to capture students’ attention, well- thought- out enough to actually teach the standard, and designed carefully enough to engage students for the correct amount of time. This is a process I engage in every day in complete isolation. I have a regular group of students who meet me at 8:00 A.M. and rarely have I ever asked what they think of the days planned events. But somehow I’m always wondering if the plan is good enough.
One particular morning after I worded and reworded the daily agenda to reflect carefully crafted objectives, a curious student walked into my room. He looked at the board and saw the long expressions of the day’s tasks. He said to me “We have to do all that today”, with curiousity in his eyes. He walked over to the board and began reading. Once he had taken it all in he turned to me and sighed, reaching for his soccer ball, and said “Oh that aint nothing but a whole lot of words.” When he ran outside to play it left me wondering if to him the day’s agenda was simply a whole lot of words. What would it take to make those words more meaningful and powerful to him and his classmates?
Rarely in my practice do I get the oportunity to give students a chance to inquire into things they are interested in, to express their ideas about what is important in the world to know, and reflect on what it is they are learning and how they have come to know it. Thnking about my student reading my “words”, I wondered where are his?
In the midst of all the assessment, analysis, and planning, the essential voice is missing: the voice of my students. I am constantly giving assessments, teaching students standards, making differientiated groups, providing supplemental practice, and giving grades based on my perception of what students have learned. A crucial piece of this understanding is lacking in the analysis of it all. I do not have regular opportunities for students’ ideas and reflections to be made explicit to me, or to the students themselves. Teachers talk to and at students all day. I would like to make the time to talk with them, then to use their words and ideas to influence my teaching practice. This leads me to this present inquiry.
I was given, rather abruptly, the task of teaching a 25 minute session 4 days a week to a group of 33 students who had never before worked together in such a fashion. These students are a combination of 4th and 5th graders across 4 classes. This class makes up the English Only track of the English Language Development program at my school. Consequently the majority of these students are African American and the rest are Latino students who have been classified as proficient English speakers. These students make up some of the brightest and most challenging students in our urban school, in many cases the two adjectives describe the same student. In other cases they dont. Needless to say I have been given no curriculum and many of these students blatantly resist cookie cutter lessons, worksheets, and status quo schooling. They are screaming out through their behavior that they are not satisfied with the current state of affairs. I decided that I would use this time to let the students pursue and activity of their choosing. They unanimously decided to make music videos and we began the pathway to production. The problem that keeps arising for me is that these students are so used to not having a say in the curriculum that I wonder if they will even see this as their chance to utilize their voices to say the things they usually hide. The question has come up for me: “In what ways do students view their voices as valuable and how will they speak out if given the opportunity?”
Objectives for Students
-opportunity for creative expression
-ability to use technology
–experience as writers chosing their own content
– recognize the power of expression and voice
-oportunity to analyze their own words