-The Monkey’s Paw
Kids today are smart, smarter than I was at their age. They've seen thousands of movies, T.V. shows, and news clips. They download graphic material and steal freely off the Internet. In fact, they basically have world at their fingertips. I mean, how does the modern teacher instruct a room full of kids with iPhones in their laps?
It's tough. Earlier this year my students created this chat room to post live comments during a lecture that I projected on the board. It was our most lively discussion, full of insight and constant attention. The only problem was, it had nothing to do with the lecture, because the comments followed these linear joke threads that started and basically derailed the class. Still, it was a great exercise for continuing a discussion on student concentration and in-class focus.
I've done things similar to this, flirted with class blogs and posting comments... we even did a few Facebook homework assignment K-W-L's... it's cool and students enjoy it. But in Taiwan, parents are so deathly afraid of computers most don't allow their children to use them. Rather, they lock them into classrooms memorizing math answers until 10 p.m. so when kids finally get home, they are too exhausted for any kind of meaningful post-class exchange.
So lately I've been returning to old teaching tricks, tried and true methods that work... and that's drawing pictures of stories. Yes, it's reading with a pencil time again, kids!
The assignment is simple... we read, we laugh, we stop to think about what we just read and visualize it in our minds... then we draw it in cartoon boxes... using the most important quote from the passage as a caption. It works. It slows students down. Relaxes them. Forces thoughtful expression (yes, forces!) but also begins the conversation about ruminating and meditating about what one has just read that is still swimming around in their brains.
Wait, Hartenstein... are you trying to get these kids to meditate? Are you asking them to read something and then close their eyes and show it to you? But that's so boring... so traditional... so slow... can't we just download an app and draw it on our phones? No... get some colored pencils. Draw me something for real!
Well, as you can see... for W.W. Jacob's The Monkey's Paw, a story whose ending most kids see coming two pages in...this kind of picture drawing works... works for me too!