After a first two weeks of unexpected circumstances, bus cancellations, long weekends and lots of busy days, I finally was able to present my first lesson to the class on Thursday afternoon. To say I was excited and nervous simultaneously would be a colossal understatement. I was buzzing with energy as I opened the PowerPoint and got ready to address the students.
I had recently been asked to introduce the class to poetry, with the Four Elements (air, water, fire, Earth) as a topic. I have been writing poetry since I was in Grade 6 myself, so I accepted this assignment without any hesitation. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided it would be good to present the class with three brief forms of poetry: Acrostic style, Haikus, and Chinquains. I even wrote the exemplars of each poem myself.
At the start of the lesson, I began by hosting a whole-group brainstorm based on the following question: Why do we write poetry? I asked the students to do a “Turn and Talk” with a partner, and then we consolidated the ideas as a class. In a pleasant surprise, I had much more hands shooting up than I originally had predicted I would. I accepted every response with enthusiasm, and created a mind map to display the children’s thinking. Next, we did a brief re-cap of the Four Elements, and I went through my PowerPoint, explaining the basics of each poem, and having student volunteers read the exemplars. I know that this technique is often hit-or-miss, but my placement class is a high-engergy group who absolutely LOVES to talk, so I wanted to give them as many opportunities to share and communicate with both myself and each other during this lesson (and I had several brave volunteers each time, which was awesome to see). When the presentation was over, I used a Gradual Release of Responsibility strategy, and had the class co-create a poem of their own, which I added to the slides as an example later that night.
Overall, I got both a high level of engagement, attention, and participation during this lesson. I was not sure if this was due to genuine interest in what I was saying, or because of the reminder from their classroom teacher to be respectful during my lesson. In retrospect, I think it was a combination of both, with an emphasis on genuine interest. I moved on to an Art activity at the end of the lesson, because there was not enough time in the period to send the children to start working on poems of their own. Again, the class seemed to be engaged, and I even had one student approach me during cleanup time and say “Miss Leonard, thank you for this opportunity to learn” in a very sincere and serious manner. I was beyond touched, and very relieved that my first teaching block had been successful as a whole.
After having the class write poems yesterday, I can see that they still have a long way to go in terms of adding creativity and detail to their writing. I have been assured by my Associate Teacher however, that this is common at the start of a Poetry Unit, and I am determined to help the students improve the quality of their poems in the time that I have left in this classroom.