Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Manga, Mint Tea, and EFL

student's manga sketch
       This school year definitely feels different and better now that I’m trying some of the EFL ideas.  This is specially true in the personal connections I’m having with the students.  When I’m talking to them individually, in class or outside of class, there is a personal quality to our interactions.  There is a real sense of contact, more of an openness in the students as we talk.  I’ve always enjoyed my students but now I can appreciate who they are more fully.  I see them looking for different ways to shine and I see them wanting to share this with me, whether it’s being on the football team (flag football but very competitive), being in the orchestra, hosting exchange students from China, or working on their manga drawings (see student’s drawing on right.)  I’m constantly looking for ways to bring these interests into the classroom.  Often it’s through their writing, giving them a chance to share in group or class discussions, or just taking the time to talk to them about what is going on.  Since I ended up teaching a period of art I’m scrambling to do a unit on manga, anime drawing since that is so popular this year.

      That being said, in my classroom there are so many students that frequently the interaction feels more like a flowing, rushing river of class energy that somehow I, as the teacher, have to direct.  As we go through whatever lesson we are tackling I have to nudge that energy toward a certain goal.  Sometimes that goal is academic, simply a life lesson we are discussing, or at other times it’s trying to infuse some fun in our day.  Many times I’m just gauging the current and banking up, damming up one shore or the other in an attempt at having the overall class energy flow in the right direction.  Yes, it is I, as the teacher that have to decide what the right direction is for the whole class and most times it’s through decisions made in a split second on sheer intuition.

     In public school, I’m expected to highlight academic activities like a spelling lesson, or reviewing  common and proper nouns.  If anyone has any fun ideas for how to teach spelling or grammar please let me know!   In desperation the other day, as the class was turning into an edie of overly rambunctious energy, I realized I had to get the students out of their seats and using all that energy towards a constructive goal.  I turned half the class into the Proper Nouns Nation (PNN) and the other half into the Common Nouns Nation (CNN;).  Yes, they could get up, mingle, and talk as much as they wanted but if they were the PNN only proper nouns could come out of their mouths and vis a versa if they were CNN they could only communicate in common nouns.  It actually worked!  They were able to get some of their energy out, come back, and focus on a more serious grammar lesson.  This wasn’t quite a “flow lesson”, I could have added a focusing transitional activity but it was as close as I could come to “flow” on the spur of the moment.

     I’m feeling constrained by having to be only in my classroom, when what I want is to go outside with my students.  Considering the fast pace of the curriculum we have to cover and the logistical limitations of being part of a big school, I have not been able to do as many experiential lessons as I want to.  However, I have tried sneaking in an experience even in small measures. For example, as we read a novel, Maroo of the Winter Caves, with a setting based during the last ice age where the main characters are part of a hunter-gathering tribe, they mentioned the women gathering herbs to put into water for making a flavored drink (tea of course).  We decided to make mint sun tea for the whole class.   Students pitched in and brought the needed ingredients, mint from their gardens, glass jars, cups, and honey.  I was surprised how many students had not had mint tea of any kind, let alone from their garden.  Everyone enjoyed this activity thanks to the generosity of their fellow students and their families.  We enjoyed tea while we read our novel.

     I’m still learning how to bring a lighter atmosphere to the classroom.  It’s a shift in focus as I repeatedly have to choose ways to engage the students on not just learning  academics but also learning important values and having fun.  The year continues.

1 comment:

  1. What a blessing for your students. It would be fun to be in your class.