Monday, June 26, 2006

Effective Unit

Although I didn't do all the lessons/projects I wanted to in my first year-- one was memorable. We did a play-- it wasn't that this project was profound, but it was something that my students really enjoyed. Everyday while we read, discussed, practiced, and performed the play was a good class day. Since I couldn't get legally make copies of a play I dug (nor could I find an age appropriate play)-- I used a play from the reading book. It was a Greek play for kids on democracy and leadership. This project was effective for a number of reasons. First of all, many of my students were scared to read out loud and they generally read with a monotone and forced voice. The play allowed them to shine with their voices-- after that it was no problem to get them to read with enthusiasm. It was also effective because every single student in the class passed with a B or better on the reading comprehension test. They understood all the vocabulary words for that unit and they actually used and said them with confidence. You can't read a text three times every unit, but it was great that they understood the motivations of the characters, the plot, and could discuss the text on a fairly high-level.

We started off by listening to a professional version of the play out loud-- which inspired them to read correctly and with fluency. After that each student selected a part and wrote a page describing that character and why they deserved to cast for the part. I picked the best students for the best parts-- and in the end everyone got a chance to play a character or have a role in production. Since the space I had for a classroom was limited (and I wanted to focus on fluency)-- I decided to use a tape recorder to record their performances. We practiced several times before taping the show. Students helped each other stumble over larger words and worked to perfect their characters. It was really cool watching the students suddenly care about how their reading sounded. On the performance day, we taped the play. I picked my most energetic students to be sound people-- and they were (for the first time) tired after one of my classes! Then we listened to the tape and did some self-evaluations. They listened to excerpts from the other classes and it even had a competitive edge about which class had best readers and actors. Even though this was a simple unit-- and didn't require much of me-- except to facilitate-- it was very successful and they wanted to record themselves every story we read after that. Low tech rocks.


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