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Date: August 26, 2008

back to “school”

Yesterday Aidan and I attended a back to “school” picnic with a local homeschooling group. It was a wonderful day. It was held at a forest preserve in Plainfield and the turn out for the event was great (about 15 families). All the kids played at the playground for some time then we headed over to a picnic shelter to have a semi-potluck picnic. (I say semi- potluck because everyone brought their own main dish/sandwich but then brought some side or dessert to share with everyone else.) After lunch a police officer from the Joliet Police department came by and presented a safety class for the kids. He discussed all about stranger danger, bicycling safety, and even a little on gun safety (that they are not toys and that kids should never touch them!). After the police officer left most of the kids ran around the picnic area having fun while the parents got a chance to introduce ourselves and talk a bit about some ideas for the group.

Aidan stuck to me like glue for most of the time (as usual), but overall he was very patient as I tried to talk with some of the parents after lunch. He did get a bit bored after 15 minutes or so of me trying to listen to and engage in conversation about possible ideas for the group. I did try to encourage him to go and play with the other kids, but he didn’t want anything to do with that (at least not alone). So, I eventually left the parents and went with him to play with the other kids (they were all gathering sticks and laying them out pretending to build a tree house). Shortly after this everyone headed back over to the playground where we spent that next hour or so at the cable ride–a fun ride that starts off at a raised platform then you grab a hold of handles on a pulley device that is attached to a cable above the ground and hang on as you slide suspended off the group until you reach the end of the cable. This by far was the most popular attraction for the majority of the kids, Aidan included. I have to say that after watching and helping the kids for awhile I just had to try it myself–it was fun! But, the kids only allowed me one turn–I know, I know the ride’s for the kids, but it really was fun! :-)

We had a great day and I was so glad to see Aidan having such a great time playing. I look forward to more events  with this group and getting to know some of the families better.

back in the saddle–the first day of class

Well, the summer was short and I find myself back in the classroom with a room of unsuspecting students–eager to learn and to challenge themselves. I love fresh starts. This is what I’ve got planned for my first day in Composition I.

  1. First a little “walk in” music, emphasizing the idea of a fresh start and new possibilities. While students enjoy the music, I ask them to provide a little information about themselves on an index card.
  2. After a few minutes, I introduce myself to the students, using a few slides to facilitate along the way.
  3. Ok, now under the guise of pleasantries, I tell students that we will be introducing ourselves. I pick someone in the front row and say, “Tell us who you are.” This is where the fun begins. When the student offers his or her name, I say, “No, that’s your name. I want you to tell us who you are.” When they begin to describe something about themselves, I say something like “No, your describing your personality; tell us who you are.” And so on. Of course, this is a joke to illustrate the complexities of identity.
  4. To further the laugh, I share a clip from Anger Management, which is where i got the idea from. The relevant part starts at 5:30.
  5. After the clip, I point out to students the obvious. “Who are you?” is a hard question. How do you go about answering it? And of course, this leads to a freewriting opportunity.
  6. We talk about freewriting as a prewriting strategy, and then students give it a try with the following prompts: Who are you really? Why are you here? How has education or schooling affected who you are?
  7. In small groups, now, students use their prewriting to get to know each other. The goal is to learn something about the one another.
  8. Students introduce the members of their group to the class, sharing one interesting thing about who they are.
  9. Now that they know each other a little, I ask them to work together by brainstorming as many questions about the course as they can (without a syllabus in hand).
  10. After a some time has passed, I distribute the syllabus, and students work together to find the answers to their questions.
  11. Finally, as a group, we discuss any questions that for which they could not find answers.
  12. For homework, I ask that they develop their prewriting into something a little more polished. Also, I ask that they read Alfie Kohn’s “The Costs of Overemphasizing Achievement.”

Until next time…

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