Monday, March 30, 2020

My Online Lesson Bombs, and Other Tales

Today I completed part two of my lesson on Morning Has Broken, and while part one went well, part two did truly badly. During the first part of my lesson, I introduced Cat Stevens and discussed how he converted to Islam and gave up music. Students seemed to follow pretty well.

I also gave vocabulary, as words like elation do not come up every day. However, between Thursday, when I last saw the class, and today, their recall seemed to fall from the planet into some uncharted abyss straight out of an Indiana Jones flick  (and I should know because I watched one last night).

Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Are this morning and the first morning the same or different?


I have two students who could easily answer, and I avoid calling on them. I call on two students who say nothing whatsoever. One, in fact, came to my second class as well and said nothing whatsoever. I asked him direct questions. Nothing. I contacted him in the chat. Nothing. It appears that someone opened up the channel during class time, left it open for the duration, and figured that was good enough.

Eventually I called on my stronger students, which was better than me reading out the answer myself. In class, where I have eyes on everyone there, I could explain, I could address my comments to those with question marks in their eyes. Online, with only their avatars, I have no idea. All I'm sure of is I'm not reaching them.

One of my favorite questions is Why? After we establish this morning and the first morning are alike, that's my go-to. Now there is a response some of my Chinese students offer. I have no idea where it comes from, and that is No why.  I push and push, and get the same thing back. This somehow makes sense to them, but not to me. And sometimes they're not persuaded that no why is simply not even a response.

My next class went somewhat better. I had written a short piece called Show and Tell last week, in which I explained what it was, and that I had done it as a child. It contained questions we discussed, and those questions went considerably better than Morning Has Broken to).day. Of course, that's a pretty low standard. It's like saying Andrew Cuomo is a better public speaker than Trump or Biden (and make no mistake, I'm not a Cuomo fan either).

Today we had an actual task, which was to do a show and tell. I'd already shown my co-teacher, Toby the wonder dog. I spoke about how he was a stray in Puerto Rico and how he survived Hurricane Maria. My students today, after having had a week to prepare, were to do their own. One student showed his glasses, which I had to respect, as it showed quick thinking.

"Why do you love these glasses?"

"No why."

"There has to be a why. Tell me what's good about them."

"They're made in China."

Well, that beats the hell out of no why.

One student said she was unprepared and showed nothing. Two students, including the one who was unresponsive earlier, responded not at all, despite my calling on them repeatedly. In actual class, these students answer me. I very much suspect they were not even in the room where their devices were. Nonetheless, they did not complete the assignment. I guess it would've been to their advantage to simply be absent, since I can't penalize them for that. On the other hand, I can penalize them for not doing the work, so there's that.

One redeeming quality I've found in the classroom is the chat window. Sometimes students correct one another there. One student wrote, "I'm sorry," after answering a question wrong. I told her there was nothing to be sorry about, and that we all made mistakes.

I've also been using the chat as a virtual blackboard. If we do short numbered exercises, you do number one, you do number two, write the number and post it in the chat. That's been working well. Alas, nothing works as well as the in person, in place face to face.

We are all new teachers now, and it will take all of us to work out the kinks. We'll get there,  Just not right away.
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