Saturday, October 11, 2014

Celebrating Student Voice

Discover. Play. Build.

After two days of state testing in Language, I explained to my #Crazy8s (8th graders taking 9th grade English) that we would be starting a personal narrative unit.

They moaned.


At 13 they are sick and tired of personal narratives.
I get it, but now what?
I know they are right. It's the go-to writing piece for everyone. I hate being lazy. My excuse is that I wanted to plan a new unit for them and doing something familiar would make that easier for me.

Shame on me.

Truth is. These are REALLY smart kids. Smarter than most I've had in advanced classes before and I'm struggling to challenge them, yet keep things fun.

So this weekend, our last at the lake, I am scrambling for new ideas.  (Any ideas appreciated)

But I'm still celebrating. The fact that 13 year olds speak up and let me know this is not an engaging lesson is GOOD. It's their education. They should speak up.

So I'll keep thinking.
This week has also been demonstration speech week. And if you've read my blog before you know I love this week. I've written about it before (although I can't find the posts right now).

As always, I learn a lot about students (and sometimes other staff members!)

Lots of drawing lessons and braiding lessons and gaming lessons
But I've also learned about the care and feeding of Royal Pythons (UGH!)

How to make a weed wacker bike. This was an amazing project done by this kid (Totally Unacceptable). He had to repeat my class and we still have issues, but as the para in my class said, "Why don't we have class like this for kids like this?"  
Yea, why don't we?

But the biggest celebration this week is for A. A tall thin young man, who seldom speaks above a whisper. He has a para who goes to every class with him. Speech class is his nightmare, his hell on earth. But it's required for graduation and we're doing our best to get him through the class. He has been doing his speeches just for me, out in the hall. Friday morning he came during his study hall to do his demonstration speech for me. He made a homemade lava lamp (pretty cool. He let me keep it in my room). At the end of his class later in the day, he put an Alka-Seltzer tablet in the bottle and showed a couple of kids how it worked.  Others noticed and liked his lamp.

It was a small, but important step for him.  And we celebrated!

And how was your week?


  1. I love the success with the lava lamp! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face. I wish I had ideas for you with writing, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. Did your students express preferences?

  2. I would guess you will come up with a great alternative for the personal narratives. Don't know what might work. I've done so many different kinds of writing. How about slam poetry? It will include presentations too. A favorite is oral histories, researching some time in history (recent) where kids can find someone still living to interview, then write & photograph & present. Good luck Deb! Love hearing about the other classes, especially the 'how-to' speeches.

  3. Deb, I loved the last story-such a big step for your student. That alone must have lit up your day. Hope you find the right mix of a unit for your class. I have a suggestion. Might your students be interested in finding fall through imagery and poetry. I posted this note on my blog: SPECIAL NOTE: "Teachers who contribute to the Finding Fall Gallery can use their submission as a mentor text in their writing workshop. In addition, each teacher may choose one student piece to submit for the Finding Fall Gallery to spread the word that Writing Matters!" Just a thought to get students thinking creatively.

  4. Without listening to student voices the learning could become a tug-o-war. I am curious as what you come up with. I like how you highlight the students to whom the class doesn't come easy.

  5. Could you do memoirs instead of personal narratives? They're old enough that they could be really good! Or, have you heard of Exploding Moments? You take about a 5-10 min moment in time from your life and suspend it, adding description and suspense - it hones in on small amounts of time instead of a vacation or whole story about something. I love your speech celebrations - kids are so clever!

    1. I may try the exploding they could do that....

  6. Amazing how different students' experiences can be. My college students have almost never written personal narratives, and my two children (in grades 3 and 6) have never written them either. I've been showing a lot of slam poetry in my freshman comp class, and students are really digging it--but I know very few examples that would be appropriate to show to 8th graders!

    1. Crazy, isn't it. We will write many different things, but I usually start with narratives because they are easier to write. Guess I have to rethink that :)

  7. Some great suggestions her already for your writing alternative. I like Holly's because you are still in the realm of personal narrative adding a twist. Exploding a moment can build up all kinds of great writing skills. Love to see classroom success stories.


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