Monday, March 26, 2012

Feelings and Fevers: In the Classroom

Spring is here, and so is spring fever.  I just want to be outside, and so do my students.

I had the hardest teaching day last week at the high school.  My 9th graders didn't seem human -- heads on desks, eyes blank, bodies itchy.  It was like talking to sacks of potatoes.  Or maybe that was just me, and it's all a projection, as usual.  In my 10th and 11th grade classes, we explored slang.  After my 10th grade class, which was chattier than usual, a student came up to me.  "This lesson was..."  He stopped talking, took a breath, and I braced myself for all kinds of negative adjectives, none of which I was in the mood to hear.  "Were we so annoying today?" he asked me.  I sighed.  "You know you guys are one of my favorite classes," I told him, "But sometimes you are so loud."  He looked at me with serious sparkling eyes, "Yes I know, but I don't know what we can do about it."  Sigh.  "I think you guys can be better.  I'm just having a bad day," I told him.

And this, so often, is what it comes down to.  I had 9th graders for two painstaking periods, and I let it get to me.  Then, I had my 11th graders, many of whom refused to participate, one of whom spent the whole class applying her makeup.  Then, by the time the 10th graders rolled around, I was kesz.  Finished.  Spent.

I need to not let challenging classes get to me.  I need to not declare a lesson to be a failure just because a couple of kids don't have it in them to participate.

We are humans after all.  We're all doing the best we can, and that is different from moment to moment, class to class, day to day.

I need to remember one of my students in 10a, who said the sweetest thing the other week.  At the beginning of our lesson, I saw that the kids were largely ignoring me and had their vocab out.  This means one thing: they had a test coming up.  I stopped what I was doing and asked them if they wanted to study for their test.  I offered to help.  But one of my students said to me, "No, Jessica, I want to do what you want for us to do."

It's not always like that, but it is sometimes, and that is what I should focus on.

Meanwhile, in primary school . . .

Today we talked about feelings in my 6th grade classes.  First, we reviewed feeling words in English and Hungarian.  The kids and I both love this part.  I love it because it really helps my vocabulary, and they love it because, well . . .  I think half of them love to see me fail, and half of them love to see my Hungarian improve.  

In a class last week with my 7th graders, we did a modified lesson with "Bieber Fever" and I was writing vocabulary related to being sick on the board.  After teaching this lesson about 10 times last week, I now know sick, snot, booger, fart, sneeze, tissue, headache, stomachache, sore throat, fever, puke, cough, flu, cure, prescription, and even diarrhea.   One of my students called out to me, "Your Hungarian is awfsome!"  (Awfsome is how he pronounces it.)  

Then there are the other kids, who come up to the board, erase the entire Hungarian word I wrote, and write it anew, just to add an apostrophe I missed.

It is humbling to be learning their language, and I think it helps them to see me struggle, to see me so confused ("Where is the D sound?!  Hungarian is crazy!"), and to see me trying.

Back to the feelings lesson . . .

After vocab review we built sentences and practiced "I am/I feel sad" and "She is/she feels sad."

The fun part was the relay race.

I divided the class into two teams, and taped photos depicting different emotions in the middle of the board.  The kids had to race to write complete sentences (i.e. "She feels bored") on the board next the the appropriate picture, and the first team to finish won.

The kids were into it, and I actually got some photos of the process.

A worksheet followed this relay race, giving the kids a chance to practice the vocabulary and sentence structure we practiced.

This lesson was successful all around!

Gems from the classroom lately:

Me: Don't you want to come up and play charades?
7th grader: No, no.  I am socially awkward pingvin [penguin].  --laughter--

Two of my 8th graders wrote this dialogue:

Doctor: Hello, what's your problem?
Patient: I've a diarrhea.
Doctor: Oh, you must drink a lot of fluids! And I write a prescription for you.
Patient: Hey. Who cut the cheese?
Doctor: Sorry. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bieber Fever

I am sick this week.  And it's not the Bieber Fever.  Something about being sick in a foreign country (even though this is kind of my home since I live and work here) is awful.  But it's kind of handy, because I am realia, as we say in the ESL classroom.  Kathryn and I created lesson plans about being sick and going to the doctor, and I am a real-life example of sore throat, cough, and misery.  

Being sick also provides a natural opener for the lesson plan.  The downside is I don't feel I have sufficient brain cells to teach said lesson plan.  Anyhow, this morning I wrote "I AM SICK" on the whiteboard and we went from there.  The students read this dialogue Kathryn and I wrote, and then wrote dialogues of their own. 


Doctor: How are you feeling today?
Patient: Uggghhhh.  I feel like dying.  I am miserable.  Kill me now!
Doctor: Hmmm.  Well that’s not my area of expertise.  Why don’t you go listen to Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber performing a duet together.  That should do the trick.
Patient:  That’s why I’m here.  I think I’m allergic to Ju-ju-.... I can’t even say it, but I can’t stop listening to his awful music!
Doctor: Oh dear.  This is worse than I expected.  We haven’t yet found the antidote for the Bieber Fever.  Let me examine you and take your temperature to see how badly you’ve been affected by this terrible disease.  One moment while I put on my protective body suit.  Can’t be too careful -- this is a highly contagious disease.
Patient: I should have listened to my friends. They warned me about the Bieber Fever, and told me to get vaccinated.
Doctor: Please open your mouth and say “Aaaahhh.”  … Hmmm.  It looks like your throat is swollen.  I was afraid of this.  Have you been singing along to Justin Bieber?
Patient: Ummm... well... ah...
Doctor: You can tell me anything.  Because of doctor-patient confidentiality, I won’t tell a soul.
Patient: Ok.  Well, yes.  I have been singing along to “Baby Baby.”
Doctor: Oh dear.  
Patient: Doctor!  Please help me!  I am in so much pain!  What can I do?
Doctor: I’m afraid it’s too late to get vaccinated, as you’ve already been infected by the Bieber Fever, but I can write you a prescription for some antibiotics and pain killers.  Please get lots of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and for God’s sake, STOP listening to Justin Bieber!
Patient: Thank you doctor!  You have saved my life!

Two of my students came up with these short dialogues, which have been placed (with their permission) into my ESL hall of fame:

Doc: Stay calm.  This operation will go easily.
Patient: Thanks doc.  This is my first operation.
Doc: Its okay.  This is my first operation too.

Patient: Am I able to play on the violin after the operation?
Doc: Sure.
Patient: This is amazing.  I've never been able to play on the violin.

One of my high school students told me: "Jessica!  We love you that hate Justin Bieber!" 
I love you guys too.

In my sixth and seventh grade classes yesterday, we also talked about being sick and they read a simpler Visiting the Doctor dialogue.  Here are some snippets from their dialogues:

Doctor: What's the problem?
Patient: I am deading.
Doctor: Hi.  How are you?
Patient: I feel sick.
Doctor: Really?  Why?
Patient: I don't know ....... you're the doctor!!

Fun fact of the day: In the U.S. we say "Achoo!" and Hungarians say "Hapci!"
Which do you think sounds more like an actual sneeze, or do you say something else entirely?