Thursday, July 17, 2008

More teaching advice, pleeeeeeeeeease!

I've made the heroic resolution to post every day because I have this idea that it's something people with blogs ought to do if they want anybody to read, and also because it will keep me from taking any one post too seriously, since it's just going to get buried in a bunch of other posts anyway. Of course, considering that it's only going to last until I get bored, I can't guarantee any long stretch of posts. But I can guarantee at least ... two days. Including yesterday.

And today I'm going to talk about my kids. Not my biological kids, though maybe tomorrow I'll post about my biological kids and how they're all going to be protegies and perfectly behaved, but today I'm going to post about the kids I teach. Who are also protegies, and sometimes they're perfectly behaved too.

Thus, this post is mostly for people who know something about teaching. If you don't know anything about teaching, you have my permission to get on with your life. If you do know something about teaching, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD tell me what to do! (actually it's really not all that serious, but I would like to know if you read one of my ideas and think "yeah. THAT'S going to work. with two five year olds in the class??)

So. Tomorrow, that is, not really tomorrow, but the next time we have school, we're introducing the letter A, which is our very first vowel. Big excitement. The textbook has them learning A AND learning to read 3 letter words all in the same day. Georgie, who's been through this part of the book already, told me that he cried on this lesson. So my goal is to make stepping stones instead of a quantum leap.

We've already been finding words that begin with letters that we've had already had, and listening exercises where they say whether the word begins or ends (or neither!) with the letter we're studying. You know, "clap your hands if the word I read ends in S. House, door, pony, walrus." Walrus and pony aren't really on the list - they're all monosyllabic words so far.

So here's my idea: (1) Introduce the letter. Hi, A. Practice writing it, find words that start with A. Apple, And, Antenna. Kidding about Antenna, unless one of them thinks of it. Art project in which we draw an apple with a worm crawling out of it, conveniently placed to resemble lowercase a. Construction paper, because they like construction paper.
(2) Introduce words that have only A and another letter that we've had so far. At, An, As, Am, Add (which has two ds, but that shouldn't be too hard to explain. It's just that way, accept it, kids.). Give them 3 words, see if they can find the others. End first day's lesson here, to give them time to sleep on the idea of two letters they already know making a word.
(3) The next day, put letters in front of the words we found yesterday. At - Cat, Bat, Mat, Sat. Again, give them three, see if they can come up with others. If they don't get it, I guess, just keep throwin' the words at them until they see the pattern.

My goal is for this series of steps to take some of the stress out of the leap from identifying letters to reading words. Does anyone have any advice, warnings about how my plan won't work, tips for more stepping stones?


Istvan said...

Thanks again Mary Catherine.

The sense of the poem is intended mainly as an ironic and contrasting counterpoint to the quotation at the beginning: skating on ice can be thrilling and can also kill you. It is NOT meant as an illustration of what the Dictionary of Dreams says.

The two lines before the final one should make it clear that he has fallen through the thin ice ("the break") and is drowning. The shadow he sees in the mirror is himself!!! Of course!!
Oh, surprise, surprise!

It does bother me that you did not see it as the speaker drowning, especially since you are obviously well-acquainted with poetry.

It is indeed a thin line (a pun on thin ice?) between getting the reader to "get it" and being too descriptive. Ambiguity as a virtue is perhaps debatable in poetry as it is in painting. Picasso has a good reputation as an artist, even though some people may not like or understand a picture with an arrow coming out of horse's eye. Perhaps there are abstract styles and representational styles. I suppose if something grabs you sufficiently to make you think about it then it has accomplished something.

I began this poem some time ago and it was quite short at the beginning but the last line has always been "the inmutable core" of this poem. It doesn't bother me that it ends in a preposition, but it does bother me if the reader is not overwhelmingly surprised by the force of the poem's resolution. (Which, despite the clear warning signals across the entire poem should come as something of a shock. Certainly an intended contrast with the expectation generated by the initial quotation)

Istvan said...

OK, you may be right. However, I have modified the ending according to your suggestions. Check it out and let me know. I think it is VASTLY superior to the earlier one and in line with what I was seeking. It could still be improved, of course but I think that now the readers should "get it".

Istvan said...

Check out the NEW IMPROVED version of my poem!!!

I figure that "until the last" cannot be improved as a last line. The line in parenthesis is no longer needed and tends to weaken the surprise-shock effect.

Same as "as a shark" could not be improved in our poet laureate's poem but wouldn't you know it, she ruined it by adding two lines at the end!!!! The psychological force is diluted. I first saw the fragment in a piece in the New York Times & looked up the full poem which is only twice as long as the fragment. (On the other hand I saw another poem by her called the tortoise or turtle which didn't impress me much).
I think her poem ending in "as a shark" is absolutely sensational. No need for the watered-down version.

I have read some of WCWilliams & he's OK. Have not read of Richard Wilbur. I like Theodore Roethke quite a bit.

Istvan said...

Check out the new and MUCH IMPROVED version !!!

Istvan said...

Mary Catherine,

All critiques are not only welcome but solicited. (I may not always follow all of them).

I would consider an alternative to struggle, but gasp is flatly rejected for being too journalistic.

I am still undecided about whether to leave in the last line in parentheses. I think it works both ways but the tone becomes more "light-hearted" with it.