What Computer Time Was, Is, and Should Be

I would’ve thought that my higher-level students would have used computer time to do more difficult English work.  After all, the most basic and immediate benefit of Computer Time is that it’s inherently multilevel. 

Yesterday, however, I noticed that everyone (even my temporary Level 3 student) was on the beginning level.  When I suggested to a few students that they try Level 2 or Level 3, they were all eager to do so and they haven’t seemed to look back. 

Maybe I wasn’t clear about what the purpose of computer time was (very, very possible).  Maybe they’re cautious learners.  Maybe they felt it was some sort of respect to the Level 1 teacher to do Level 1 computer work.  Maybe it’s a mix of all of those.  I guess the point is that the first days of computer time weren’t actually as multilevel as I’d thought!  Luckily, fixing that was simple once I realized it was an issue.

I also feel that we have an issue in that we have Computer Time as separate from our “real” learning time, and that we use our computers solely to run unidirectional software and never (so far) for students to collaborate and create content.  These issues don’t have quick fixes.

One big reason it is this way right now is that students lacking basic mousing skills or who type at 8 WPM are going to have a ton of trouble collaborating and/or creating content.   I think the foundational work we’re doing has great value.   But some of my students are not novices.  All of a sudden, I’m back in a multilevel conundrum in which I can’t effectively plan for specific individuals because attendance is erratic. 

We just have a long way to go.  The next step is probably to do a project in the class in which we collaborate digitally, for example, making a cookbook during an upcoming food unit.

Everyday we come a little closer to using our digi-tech how we should.  As Granny says, “We’re getting there, inch by inch.”

Journal: Project Day

Yesterday’s class was OK.  I had freakishly great attendance (9 students!) so I changed my lesson plan at the last moment and conducted the standardized test I’d been planning to do today.  We worked on negating the Simple Present, and while it was nice and clear, it turned into The Emily Show.

Today I planned a poster project to help get me out of the spotlight and to really put their understanding to the test.  Objectives met!

Also, we only have two days left of summer classes!  We have a party planned for this Thursday (looks like it’s going to be epic), and then about a month off until the Fall semester.  I’ll be transferring to a different site and level.  I’m looking forward to it, but I’m going to miss this group SO much!

Students: 8

Countries of Origin: El Salvador, South Korea, Dominican Republic, China

What surprised me:

  • How good it felt to have students stand up and be able to confidently identify the subject and verbs in a sentence on the board.  It’s not something they’ll do in their everyday life, but it will help them decipher some advanced grammar (i.e. passive voice) later on.
  • I ended up having four men and four women, so I made the groups for the poster project single-gender.  The ensuing competition and heckling was hilarious.
  • One of my students has been struggling with mixing up the SiPr and PrCo tenses.  As the poster project time was wrapping up, the student said with perfect grammar, “I am smoking marijuana today.”

Today’s Objectives:

  1. SWBAT negate SiPr
  2. SWBAT use SiPr and PrCo correctly and appropriately

What went well:

The morning’s conversation was very strong today, touching upon dreams and the maps on the classroom walls.  I also found that a good way to wrap up conversation time is to get the next activity up on the board.  Simple and obvious, but it seems to work.

Our SiPr negations went pretty well.  I definitely made a good choice by modeling first and then handing off the marker to let the students be the teachers.  I was also pleased with my solo two-person dialogs to demonstrate the nuance between “I like chocolate.” and “I do like chocolate.”

The poster project went better than I’d expected.  Far better.  I think they were well prepared for it, and my model on the board was clear and helpful. The questions they asked me and each other as they were making their posters showed me that the project was making them separate and compare the two tenses in terms of form and function.  I asked them to present to the class, and one of the students walked over to the cabinet and got out a flyswatter to use as a pointer!

For the last ten or so minutes we watched the old videos from the unit on mute.  In one video, a character is exercising in the office next to his coworkers while they are working.  (In other words, there’s a ton of PrCo.) In another, real people are being interviewed in Central Park about their exercise routines.  (In other words, there’s a ton of SiPr.)  The students were able to describe what was happening in correct PrCo and tell which tense the interviewees were using as they spoke (while it was on mute).  Those were pretty complex checks for understanding, and they were able to answer correctly and confidently!

This is one of those lessons that really left me with a positive feeling, and I’m guessing (or hoping?) that the other folks present feel similarly.

What I’d like to improve upon:

I’m sort of afraid that by telling the students that I’ll be moving to a different school for the Fall term, I made too big a deal of it.  Some of them are looking toward the Fall with trepidation, which was not my intent at all.  I’m not sure how to smooth that transition.  Maybe by having them make a portfolio of sorts to show to the Fall teacher?

Thoughts for tomorrow:

I think they’re prepared for the super-picky worksheet I have on SiPr vs PrCo.  I’d also like them to write dialogs about exercising, using at least one example of SiPr and at least one of PrCo.