3 class hours – one topic and zero boredom

Today I had to be well prepared as I was teaching a lively but motivated 10th grade class with no official textbook.

We are covering the topic of ‘The Individual and Society’ as a pre-reading for ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson.

The challenge? Well, teaching 14 year olds (lots of boys) is a start, these kids know English, some of them come from English-speaking backgrounds but their English is far from academic (however, they need to be shown that they have a way to go as far as academic English is concerned). Their levels vary, some will get through a text in seconds whilst others are still struggling. Oh, and of course, it’s three hours.

So I started with stage one which was reminded themselves of the question and the topic. In the previous lesson I had shown them a picture on the board of the man who didn’t salute for Hitler, but hadn’t told them the story behind the picture until they’d discussed what they saw a bit. They were then given Jigsaw activities of various social experiments (Milgram, Asch. Hofling Nurse and Stanford) which reinforced the idea of how the individual behaves in a group setting.

Ok so that was last lesson. So now we had the last group presentation (ish) on the nurse experiment and I went back to the Stanford Prison Experiment in more detail.

I’d gone over the 15 minute documentary, finding some nice juicy bits of vocabulary which I’d written in a chart. First students had to identify words they knew, words they sort of knew and words they didn’t know at all. Then we went through a rather time consuming procedure of translating the words from the projected word document.

Now they had a lot of clues for the documentary. During the documentary they were given a note-taking chart and also prompted to tick off the newly learned words as they heard them on the documentary.

The documentary prompted a lot of questions, such as the connection between Abu Ghraib and Stanford, how prepared the volunteers were for their prison reality etc. I paused it a few times to clear up misunderstandings.

Oh, and I played the documentary with English subtitles. it helps.

I then allowed 10 more minutes for completing the chart. By this time our lesson was nearing a close, believe it or not.

We had feedback of the details students had picked up and then I handed out their journals and they had an option of 1 or 2 questions to reflect on

‘Could this happen to me’ or ‘Were these ‘bad apples’ or is this human nature?’

Students wrote silently for 10 minutes. It was puzzling for them to write for the sake of writing, not a graded or grammar-checked affair without a word- count even. Process writing, pure and simple.

I liked my lesson because I was able to take the documentary and turn it into something deeper rather than simply viewing (which had occurred two years ago). By the time we got to the video students were ready for it and the follow-on activities, rather than testing basic understanding were more reflective.

A student afterwards told me that she really enjoyed the lesson even though she’d been dreading the three hours 🙂 Yay for me!