Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Focus on Warm-up

  After Saturday's class, I have been making a more conscious effort to activate my students schemata and get their little minds ready to make use of the relevant information for the day.  We have been studying weather events with my upper-level sixth grade classes, so the advent of yesterday's absurd weather was a perfect topic for discussion.  The morning had started out cloudy before it actually rained.  The rain gradually changed into snow, but by the afternoon, it was quite sunny and extremely windy... so there was a lot the kids could talk about.  
  I asked them to identify the weather and pointed out that we have learned a lot of great language to express it.  They talked about the different kinds of precipitation and we discussed the book's use of "freezing rain" as it related to what happened yesterday.  I feel that "mixed-precipitation" is a better term for it, and we talked about why each term was better or worse.  Their book also outlined a few cloud types and we tried to identify what the clouds were like yesterday.  I also asked them how they prepared for the weather in the morning and how, if they had known what the weather would actually be like, they would have prepared differently.  Two of my classes got really into these topics and were making good use of the vocab to express themselves without me really asking for them to do so.  
  My third class is a bit more reserved, so while we had this discussion, it wasn't really flowing and they were all quite worried about making mistakes in front of their peers.  I'll have to think of a better way to get them talking tomorrow..
  So the warm-up achieved its purpose in all three classes.  We re-familiarized ourselves with meteorological expressions which they probably haven't used or thought about since our class last week.  It was a good way to lead into today's material which covered thunderstorms, droughts, and floods.  I really need to focus on that quiet class though.. their schema was activated, but they didn't get nearly as much functional practice as the other classes.


  1. YEah -- curious HOW they talked about it. Complete sentences? In pairs? With assistance? etc. The details of the discourse that resulted from your detailed plan? Precisely how was the output different in the quieter class?

  2. During the warm-up convos, I posed questions to the entire class and took answers from volunteers. I ask them to raise their hands before they contribute so one or two students don't dominate the discourse. I started the discussions by saying something like, "yesterday's weather was a little crazy, right. why was it a little crazy yesterday?" When I get single word answers I respond with "full sentence please" and they rephrase. From there, the discussion developed organically and I scaffolded a bit by mentioning that they could use words from the readings on pgs.x (12-13? can't remember right now). I keep it light and try to have a fun discussion, asking questions at times to keep it moving, like "how did you prepare for the weather yesterday?" "how can we prepare for crazy weather like that?" If they don't want to respond, I use your trick of letting them talk to their teammates for twenty seconds or so to get their thoughts organized.

    The quiet class is hesitant to speak to me and, more frustratingly, their teammates. I announced that I was going to change their teams on Thursday, just to see their reaction since they might be hesitant to come out and say they didn't want to be with the people on their current team, but they reacted with more than a little anxiety to that as well.. so I'm not really sure what to do with them. There are students in that class who were very talkative and participatory in other classes in which I have taught, but in the context of this class, they clam up. I think it may have to do with their homeroom teacher. He's a wordy fellow, and he pops in and out of class when I'm teaching. He's not a distraction so I never really notice him, but it's possible that my students feel they need to be quiet in front of him. I'll pay attention to how they act with him in or out of the class next week, but I may have to address that directly because things aren't going the way I want them to!