Thursday, August 24, 2006

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Sculpture Garden

...A Tale Of Cautious Optimism

I had every reason on earth to put my Institute binder on a shelf and promptly go back to whatever I was doing before. My one section of English II (I have two sections of Debate in the fall) has something like eight Special Ed kids and, in the words of my co teacher, "about ten more who act like it". Very few girls and very lots of ADD. They're endearing, but hard. All of this combined with a dark and Hamlet-y (Hamlet-ish? Hamlet-esque? Globiness??) homecoming (minus my mother marrying my uncle, but I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my damn mirth) would make it easy to "change back".

I know, however, that all of the things I do will be like planting slow growing seeds, so we work at it. We have been checking in and out, but that's low risk. It was time to pile the desks against the wall and do something. So today, we did.

The plan was Sculpture Gardens with the "words to own" from Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations. Vocabulary is always hard for my kids, we many times seem only to rent those "words to own" and so I thought a physical representation would work with this class.

It didn't right away. I had to step back from the vocab words and do some tableaux (I am at this moment on the G chat with Emily who informs me that tableaux is the correct plural) to warm up. The results, again, were not what I expected. The sunny Florida postcard was a straight line of kids, the girls waving and the boys pointing at the girls. I do think, however, that it eased the tension a bit and we did have some luck with the "words to own". Getting them silent for the work was impossible. I think that's discomfort with even the suggestion of touching one another (we did the puppet thing, but that's still pretty close for some kids). I would welcome your thoughts on encouraging (without pimpslapping and demanding) silence for the exercises.

I will allow some time to work through the discomfort, because I think the results were worth it. Reactions included "I liked getting to moving around" and the best one ever "I never understood what ponderous meant until I saw it". Worth the trouble, I would say.


At 9:59 PM, Blogger Holbrook said...

Yeah, I did Sculpture Garden two days ago, and the kids wouldn't shut up. There was a lower amount of "pretend to knee your partner in the nads" than I anticipated, so I guess that's a good thing, but they just wouldn't try it without verbally instructing their "clay" what to do. I must have said, "see if you can do it nonverbally" two hundred times on Tuesday. Very frustrating.

Also, I saw some sculptures for "tempt not a desperate man" that could get a guy in trouble. I guess I should have thought that through better.

At 10:06 PM, Blogger educat said...

I am choosing to believe that the chatter lets up when they get more comfortable with each other. That's one reason to start with low stakes.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger Emily said...

Have you started with simple exercises to get them used to being quiet? Try, "close your eyes and imagine..." or "listen to these words and then think about them for 30 seconds. I'll tell you when time is up."

Silence is scary. Especially when we have to interact with others inside of it. I posit that getting students used to silence, then used to silence with each other, is an important first step to creating sculpture gardens.

There's an exercise called Half-Time Game that I do with students. It's nonverbal and goes like this:
"You are the band on the field at half time. Without speaking, without pushing or pointing or telling others where to go, create the letter W. I am the bottom of the field (or page). If you see an adjustment that needs to be made, be the one to make it rather than telling someone else."
It's challenging, but they get it after some time. This might be a place to go at some point as well.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Sandi said...

So glad to hear I'm not alone out there!I've done two days worth of sculptures with vocabulary words, and Irealized that for some of them, nonverbal wasn't gonna happen. I shrugged it off with the idea that as long as they were progressing toward understanding the words, we were getting somewhere. One thing seems to be hot, though: the day before sculpting, we do the ball game thing with just the words. The kids love this, and they get used to throwing the words around, (they call it "vocabulary dodge ball"--they don't bean each other-- we're using the nerf balls from the gym that they play dodge ball with.)

Also, second run was a bit quieter as I'm getting better at pairing/grouping kids. (I have few mid-level ability kids - they're either really bright, or not--so getting heterogeneous groups figured out starting out is a trick.) I also have students select at least half the vocabulary words we do for the unit. (We aren't always sculpting them, as we're doing Ray Bradbury now, and stuff like "quark" is kinda hard to do, but still.)

Sandi (whose A/C has been out since Thursday)


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