Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Trying New Stuff

Fairly straightforward (the concepts aren't difficult) lesson on a Medieval Ballad. I decided to throw in a "twitter" option which worked quite well (the kids figured out how to do it-I didn't). The lesson was fairly traditional at the start, with me explaining the elements of a ballad and then we listened to "Hurricane" by Bob Dylan and identified criteria for a ballad in the song. Then we read "Bonny Barbara Allan" out loud. Then students were allowed to choose their own groups (I said max 3 but we ended up with a few groups of 4). The challenge was to capture all 11 stanzas of BBA in some form, and reference the symbolism of the rose and the thorn in the poem.

Class breakdown: 35 minutes: students in desks working independently. 40 minutes: group work with options plus the one presentation we got to at the end of class.

Option 1: Use twitter to create a fictional conversation between the two characters in the poem (that hit on every stanza)-3 groups chose this option
Option 2: Take 11 pictures of tableaus that represented each stanza.-5 groups chose this option
Option 3: Take 11 pictures of scenes created using playdough that represented each stanza.-1 group chose this option

Pros and Cons:

Pros: The students were highly engaged in the lesson and as I wandered around the school checking on groups, I did not stumble on anyone off task. It was obvious that the students were having a lot of fun. I think giving the groups a timeline (30 min) to complete their projects was also effective and seemed to be about the amount of time they needed. The activity was also highly creative. All groups had to grasp the main elements of the poem and then create a NEW way to represent the material. Inferences had to be made. But:

1. How to assess? Do I assess? From the video you can see that a number of the groups have one person "leading" (they are reading the poem itself and giving directions). Did the rest of the group members fully absorb the key elements and images in the poem?

2. Time. "Bonny Barbara Allan" is a very small piece of the course that I always easily cover in one day. Now my lesson is going to spill over into another class. Do I have this time when bigger poems need to be covered in more depth?

3. Deeper understanding. While a knowledge of the plot elements and images of this particular ballad is on the core curriculum for Lit 12, should I be spending more time on deeper issues (such as the importance of retaining culture such as folk ballads, or identifying the ballad genre in our modern lives)?

Follow Up: Monday Sept. 19th (after weekend). I did a small "quiz" (not for marks) to see if the class retained the info from Friday and retention was very high. The last question on the quiz was "did you find the activities on Friday were a good way to learn". The results were very positive:

Student #1 "Yes! It help me rember it and it was fun and better then...(didn't finish the line)" (photo tableau option)

Student #2 "Loved it, it was awesome" (photo tableau option)

Student #3 "YES, it was creative in a non-artistic way" (twitter option)

The worst comment I got (only one) was "I didn't mind it".

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