Monday, August 20, 2012

They're working! (at last)

If you have to teach English to students who have not been working the whole year, it is so nice when you think you may have gotten through, for whatever reason.

Three boys in my class had not responded at all to Literature Circles, or rather, they responded in the wrong way. They treated it as an opportunity to socialise. I have tried very hard with them. I made sure they got a book they were likely to enjoy, if they could enjoy anything, Jenny Mounfield's The Ice Cream Man. In it, three boys do something stupid in their annoyance at an ice cream man who won't stop for them one hot day and find themselves being stalked. There is a twist at the end of this tale, and basically, it's an introduction to the thriller genre for teens, with a lot of meat for discussion, because they're not bad boys, really - in fact, the author tells me her son was one of them, the one in the wheelchair, who did something dumb and luckily didn't go through what happened to the boys in the book.

I have sat down with them to discuss what had happened in the story. One of the things you do in Literature Circles is compare it to real life. I invited them to think about what resemblance they might find. When they said there was nothing, I asked, "Oh, really? These three boys don't remind you of any three boys you might know?" and got a grin from them as a reward. I asked them how they had met, seeing they spend so much time together and one of them confessed, "Actually, we met when we all got into trouble together." That made me grin.

The rest of the class, who have mostly finished their books, are working on a creative response to what they have read. Yesterday I handed them their copies of The Ice Cream Man and said, "Sorry, guys, but you can't do a response to a book you haven't read."
"Fair enough," said the boy who had told me how they met and they actually got stuck into it. He got to page 122, and when I asked him what was happening, he was able to tell me! I made sure that his literacy teacher told him today that I was pleased with himand so was she.

A survey I took a while back told me that all but one of the class wanted to learn, and the one who said no was being silly.

I just need to get through the barrier of laziness with some.


Katherine Langrish said...

Sounds a great and sympathetic approach, Sue. Good for you!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Katherine! I want the best for my students and shed tears of joy when one who has frustrated me for some time suddenly starts to co-operate and let me help him or her. Alas, one of these three has since got into trouble after doing something for which a couple of days of suspension is not enough, and probably won't be back...just when he was starting to work!
Welcome to my general blog, Katherine! I greatly admire yours. Just so you know, this is my personal blog, where I occasionally put something connected with my work or home life. I have a book blog, The Great Raven, at, where I review books, discuss writing and sometimes host guest posts by writers and artists, though there is some overlap. Two of my students have prepared interview questions for Justin D'Ath, an Aussie spec fic YA writer, which will be appearing there as soon as I get him the questions and he answers them. It is their creative response to their Literature Circles book. I may republish it here as well, but please do wander over - not quite History Grks or Seven Miles Of Thistles, but quite a good blog!