Saturday, March 5, 2011

Caught' ya!

Dear Reader,
     I find myself really missing my junior high English classes and students at times (although I DON'T miss having to "hit the road" at the crack of dawn every morning OR the constantness of having to be "on stage" and "in control" no matter how I felt OR the never-ending barrage of papers that needed grading (I made this worse because I wanted to write little notes on each student's paper which, of course, made eveRyThInG more time-consuming...aarghh!)  
     I do, however, feel that, as the years went by, I slowly developed more and more and more a teaching routine that ReAlLy seemed to "work" with the creature known as the junior high student.  We had structure so that they knew what to expect, yet we were flexible....I began to know when to keep moving full steam ahead in spite of their protests and when to take their protests seriously and slow down....I began to know just the right amount of "loving sarcasm" to use to keep them focused or get them going...I had learned how to throw in a little quirkiness at just the right moments to prevent boredom without getting them too stirred up......Of course, some days were still terrible, but I had learned more and more how to regroup and begin anew the next day.

     In our classes, we had two textbooks - literature and grammar.  I also threw in vocabulary/spelling tests every Friday, outside reading books that they read on their own - they were given short essay tests every few chapters and a final seven to nine paragraph (I specified what to write about in each paragraph..i.e. setting, character sketch, plot, theme, etc.)  essay test upon finishing the book, recitations (i.e. The Walrus and the Carpenter, It Couldn't Be Done, Casey at the Bat), quote journals  (I talk about these here), and various writings thrown in hither and yon.....We were very busy, but I found that too much down time led to laziness and unfocused-ness (I think I just made this word up)...hence, if they finished something, they always had something else that could be worked on....:)

     Anyway, the school at which I taught decided that all 8th graders would have English two class periods (fifty-five min./class) per day.  Well sir.....I already had a finely tuned class routine that began with quote journals (warm-ups)...the 1st ten minutes of class with each new group of students (7th & 8th graders).


 I couldn't do that AGAIN with the 8th-grade students....too much work checking eight instead of four every week for me and too redundant for them, so how would I begin the 2nd class period with them each day?
     I struggled for a while, but finally ran across a book entitled Giggles in the Middle by Jane Bell Kiester.

My 8th graders continued with their quote journals their first class period with me each day, but their 2nd class period with me began with a Caught' Ya written on the board. 

     Caught' Yas are, in a nutshell, an integrated approach to teaching language skills in context and include a plethora of awesome vocabulary words.  Each 2 - 4 sentence Caught Ya is a part of an ongoing story of the students at Horribly Hard Middle School.  The students have 5-10 minutes to copy the sentence(s), making corrections as they go.  They also underline the vocabulary words I underline (These are later used as bonuses on our spelling/vocabulary tests).
     I would walk around the room looking over their shoulders and making verbal noises such as Mmmm, Ahhhh, Good for you...or Caught ya!  Caught' ya meant the student had either missed a correction or corrected something wrongly:)  

     Anyway, at the end of the time allotted, I read the sentence(s) aloud in the correct way, and the students could go back and add to their corrections if they heard something (such as verb tense) that they had missed.  We then corrected the Caught' ya together, and they corrected their corrections.  At the end of the week I took up the 4 or 5 Caught'Yas we had done that week and checked their corrections.  Should have been an easy 100, but you would be surprised at how many were lax in really making sure their corrections were...well...CORRECT!  Their paper also had to be set up in the format that I specified. :)  Week after week after week...but they learned many lessons in spite of themselves.:)  ...And they really became interested in what was happening each day - sentence by sentence - with this motley group of students at Horrible Hard Middle School!
     Hmmmm...I went into a lot more detail here than I intended, so I hope, Dear Reader, that you are still with me.  All I really intended to do was to give you a little grammar lesson.
     I think I will start you off with the 6th-grade Caught'Yas (vocab words will be underlined):

horribly hard middle school did not look much different from there elementary school which was nearby in their town of tedious alabama.  a big one-story brick building set nestled among large trees and a verdant lawn and a small city of white portables dotted the field behind the school like white lily pads in a green pond

I will give you the Caught' Ya with its corrections in my next post. :)  I believe there are 13 corrections. 

*Note* We would also discuss literary devices we had studied whenever these "showed up" in a Caught'Ya....for, example, this one contains a simile.  Can you find it?

In the sure to enter my March Madness Giveaway here!

Have a lovely day!



MyStory of HiStory said...

Giggles in the Middle actually sounds something Mary Poppins would use given her "philosophy" that "In every job that must be done, there is an element of FUN!"

Teaching seems as much of a learning process for the teacher as for the students, huh?! I think one of the most valuable lessons a teacher can teach is "How to Learn" - & perhaps the most difficult part of a teacher's job is figuring out how to motivate students to WANT to learn.... but it seems that as time went on you learned how to do all that quite well! :)

Mug said...

You're right about teaching students "How to Learn", MyStory.....My grandmother ran a small "Learn at your Own Pace" private school for high schoolers that actually began as tutoring sessions around her dining room table in the early 1940's (My brother runs it now). She always said that the important thing was to teach a child how to learn things for give him/her the "know-how" AND the "want-to"; then they could do the rest on their own.
Teaching students how to learn is really what teaching is all about, is it not?

MyStory of HiStory said...

I like that philosophy ... "Give them the know-how & the want-to" ... so simple but empowering. That school your grandmother started sounds practically perfect!!

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