Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Icy Hot Lizard Action

This week one of my soon to graduate seniors has been obsessed with bringing a tub of Icy Hot to his classes. He doles it out like some kind of study-manna before each of his classes to any kid who wants it. Relaxing, he says. Stinky, I say. Several of these menthol annointed rejects students turned up in my classroom yesterday. It was like the entire Noxema empire had thrown itself in a bag and died on my doorstep.

Icy Hot is when you have the forced hot air heater in your classroom set to 11 and your window wide open on a 28 degree day.

What does this have to do with the picture of ice sculpture dinosaurs, you may be asking?

Excellent question. My mom forwarded me a bunch of pictures from various ice sculpting festivals the other day. Why? Because someone had forwarded them to her. That's how the interwub works, folks. It's all one big game of bandwidth hot potato until one of us decides to delete the stupid e-mail. Or post it (or part of it).

I'd like to say this was my Stand and Deliver, but it was really more of a "me too hung over to keep the class on track and so we'll cover by trying to call this a teachable moment".

Sometimes, when I'm trying to catch up on grading, I'll devote the class period to what is generally referred to as a "free write". I'd devote it to "sustained silent reading", except my kids, for the most part, can't read. So telling them to read and leave me alone for the period turns into 5 minutes of them staring at the pages and 45 of me saying "Sshhh. Read." Can't get a lot of correcting done under those circumstances. A "free write" asks the kids to basically spend the period writing and leaving me the hell alone. Unfortunately, since many of them have word retrieval difficulties, asking them to spend the period filling lines on a page with no guidance is about as fruitful as asking them to read silently. On a good day, I will respond to requests to help students spell words. On a typical day, I spend a good chunk of the period asking kids not to stab each other with their writing implements. Or use the White Out recreationally. Or I end up trying to provide verbal writing prompts so they'll actually do work.

So, I've taken to projecting pictures on the screen to try and give them something that might be a jumping off point for a story. I give them a selection of up to 5 pictures and a word minimum (currently set at 400). If they can't think of something to write on their own, write a story about the picture(s).

One of the pictures was the one in the upper left corner of this post. It seemed to work pretty well for about half of class today. Then one kid, who'd apparently been quietly jammed with writer's block for the period, exclaimed, apros pos of nothing, "I can't have the dinosaurs come to life and eat everyone. They're all herbivores!" This snapped the rest of the class out of its collective quiet. Immediately the entire group collected at the screen to look at the menagerie of ice dinosaurs. A debate rang out over the dinosaur in the bottom right corner. It clearly wasn't an herbivore. But was it a T-Rex, or a Velociraptor? My exhortations to include their positions about the dinosaur in the actual writing assignment were falling on deaf ears. Seemed like a gimmee to me; I can drop 400 words on any argument without actively being asked to. They, however, simply prefered to argue.

The majority of the class felt it was a Raptor of some sort. One kid stridently defended the position that it was a T-Rex. I honestly don't care. I just want him to finish the damn writing assignment.

I don't know what the hell it is. It's Japanese ice scultpure.

It could be Godzilla for all I know.

What have I done?

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Violet said...

GREAT story! I spent a semester teaching high school English (including the "senior writing" class, which really meant seniors who are going to college on an athletic scholarship and need a fourth credit of English, so here take this class) and can totally picture what is going on in your classroom.

Although, we never had the Icy Hot epidemic there, I do have the windows open and the fan on today because the room is like a sauna.

Scottsdale Girl said...

Amandarama: Have I told you that I love me some teachers? my momma was an 8th grade (EEK!) Geography/socialstudies teacher.

Do I know where China is? nope.

Steven Novak said...

Did you know my wife is a teacher?

Cause she is. ;)


Lightning Bug's Butt said...

That movie, Stand and Deliver, was hella cool.

Ari said...

Yep. It's the week before Xmas break alright. I like the projector picture writing idea, though. I'll have to use it with my kids.

That is, when the planets align so that I can get the InFocus machine.