Wednesday, October 27, 2004

because they have their own thoughts

I was just reading the paper, still frustrated, when I had an idea. What is it I want? I want them to read and think. I saw a little article in the paper about a judge who threw a party with balloons and a cake the day a runaway con got returned to court for re-sentencing. I wondered what my students would think about that. So I cut it out. Then I thought, why not go through the paper and cut out a bunch of short articles that they could read and write their thoughts about. Just a simple read this and tell me what you think. Tell me what YOU think. And it doesn't matter if you like the subject or care about the issue. Just read it and tell me what you think. And I'll read every response and be harsh about not letting them get away with taking it lightly. I might do this every day. Every day! Read this and tell me what you think.
I feel a lot better now.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfect idea, Ms. Plesh! Perfect!! Have everyone do the same one and have them write their thoughts out in a journal. Tell them their response counts as their "attendence" - meaning, if they respond and tell you what they really think, then they are REALLY there (meaning they are paying attention and are ready to think critically). I love the idea! I wish you would have used that sometimes with my writing class -- it would have been fun :)
- Cassandra

7:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I read that article a few days ago and thought of you and your big box of clippings. Perhaps there's something to be said of the psychic unity of man.

Facetiousness, of course. But I'm still glad to see it got to you.

I hope you still have a box.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Plesh, remember me? Peter Zarganas, Lia's older brother. how have you been? Lia showed me you blog and i wanted to say high! hehe. well dont want to get to personal on a blog or is that what the reason for one, but this is my email addy so get in touch, would like to talk and catch up, cause you where my fav teach. talk to you soon, peter

3:19 AM  
Blogger cms said...

My friend Evan pointed me to this blog. I am taking my second year off (extended maternity) from teaching high school English in California, and boy does this put me right back in it. Good for you for keeping that kid out of your classroom last week.

The news-based journals sound cool (lots of reading for you, though?). You'll have them read excerpts of Osama bin Laden's speech, of course. And I know you're probably trying to focus on text, but maybe a political cartoon now and again might be fun--although who knows how many of them have enough "hooks" to get the message and any subtext...

Like you, I always struggled to get the masses to think beyond the most general gut reactions: "I think that's a stupid thing to do. Because he doesn't have the right to do that to someone. It's just wrong. Because it just is."

I used to try to scaffold with questions and suggestions--"Put yourself in the place of person X, and describe how you think he feels" or "How would you have done it differently?" or "Who would be able to solve this problem?" But at the same time, I hated "spoon-feeding" them, as you said earlier; I hated turning journal writes into worksheets.

The question for me is this: How do we lead them to specificity of thought--to the ability to move beyond their initial reactions and emotions--without imposing too much structure?

Obviously there are times for pure emotion, but most teens are pretty good at that already. So here's another question: How do we teach them to express their emotions articulately? But first, they need to be able to understand those emotions themselves--and most of them don't, really. Not beyond the actual initial rush of hormones. So how do we teach them to step back and understand what they're feeling? Is it even possible to do that? I mean, aren't there studies that show that the brains of teens aren't yet wired to perform this kind of detached self-examination?

There's an article in the October 17 issue of the New York Times Magazine about just that. Maybe a paragraph or two from that might be something for your kids to read. There's also a good article on Bush's "preturnatural, faith-infused certainty in uncertain times" and how it has affected his administration.

Sure looks like I miss my job, doesn't it.

3:29 PM  

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