Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lesson 21: A Question of Perception

Last Sunday's class was so good, there was hardly anything to write about. We had only half of our students there, and they were the ones who are a little quicker on the uptake and a bit calmer over all than the others. I missed the other two, but it was nice to have a breather, in some ways. It was too bad that they weren't there-- I think that Amanda would have enjoyed the activity, and David would have liked the poem.

Ah, yes. The poem. I started class by reading the poem by GA Studdart Kennedy that I posted previously. Specifically, I had hoped that David would be there because I thought he'd enjoy the fantasy elements of the poem--he plays lots of Worlds of Warcraft and gets into the Tolkein thing (books or movies, I'm not sure which. Maybe both?). The kids didn't share many thoughts about the poem, but that's ok. I hate when teachers, in the words of Billy Collins, "tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it." Joshua had a funny comment about the poem--he said, "Why were they talking about kissing?"
"It's in the fairy tales that he wrote about. The prince wakes Sleeping Beauty with a kiss. Same thing for Snow White. It's a magic kiss."
"Still, that's disgusting." I'm very happy to learn that, although our nine- and ten-year-old girls are all giggly over Zac Ephron, apparently boys still believe in cooties. Does this "Kids Getting Older Younger" marketing concept (see also: Bratz dolls, toddler-sized jeans with fake thong showing, and those awful CDs of children singing trashy pop songs (what are those called? "KidzBop" or something?)) applies only to girls. If so...I'm glad the boys are spared, but why do girls have to be shoved into this kind of thing? I really haven't thought much about this before. I don't know if my students play, ever. I know the boys play sports, but just imaginative games? I don't know. They all play video games, but of course that's not what I mean either. I don't get much of an impression that they do. Amanda brought a doll to class once, but she seemed sort of ashamed of it, hiding it from the others. She didn't hold it like a baby or anything, certainly. Lachlan has two older sisters, one in ninth grade, one in seventh, so maybe she feels like she needs to keep up with the bigger girls. Maybe what I should be concerned about is the oppositite of the worry Kennedy expresses in his poem. He declares that without Jesus, no imaginary magical land of transformation could ever have existed. Maybe we need that fairyland to understand the miraculous, as well. So how do I help them find that? This problem just keeps getting bigger and more complicated.

Anyway, about our lesson. We read about King David's young life. Both Lachlan and Josh are strong readers, and they like to be called on. Josh actually complained when I gave him only one verse at one point. I had to promise him a longer one later. In an effort to push them more about the reading comprehension thing, I've begun asking them questions about what they read. They answer verbally way better than they do in a written paraphrase, but still, they sometimes have no idea what they just read. Liz, from I Speak of Dreams, writes that these kids were probably taught to read using a "whole language" method, and therefore, they probably are devoting a huge amount of brain resources to summoning up the words, and don't have much left over for deciphering the meaning. It's an interesting argument. None of them ever try to sound anything out. I'm not as militantly anti-Whole Language as Liz is, but I think it's good to be able to take words apart, break them down, and figure out what they mean, and a guess at how they are said. Otherwise, how do you ever learn new words?

We're trying to practice the comprehension thing, and I might start helping them sound out words, as well. I worry about putting them on the spot like that--instead of just supplying the word and moving on, asking them to sound it out slowly...I don't know, I'll have to think about it.

The thing we focused on most about King David was that no one saw him as he truly was, except God. His dad saw him as the family baby, Saul and Goliath both saw him as a little boy--but Saul's servant describes him as "a great warrior and a man of valour." Confusing, yes?

We helped the kids make a chart of all the people David encounters in the section we read (which covered his annointing through the Goliath incident). Under each person, we wrote what they thought of David. In the last column, we listed what God saw in David--God being the only one who could see him truly. This was an interesting exercise, reading comprehension that didn't feel like reading comprehension. We also talked a lot about the people in our own lives who don't see us the way we see ourselves (because they are kids, the primary example here was parental misconceptions). They were definitely able to relate to David's plight, as the youngest kid whose dad thought he was good for nothing but tending the sheep.

I guess that "David and Goliath" must be one of Josh's favorite stories, because when we finally got to that point, he cheered. The kids like it when, after a long meandering through stories they haven't heard before, we land again on familiar ground. I wonder if they feel like they see these stories differently, coming into them with more background. As David's family and acquaintances saw him differently depending on their own experience with him, do my students see familiar stories in a new light, having more understanding of what happened around them? Did our lesson about Passover make them see The Prince of Egypt differently?

I hope so. If not, I'm wasting my time and theirs.

This week, we're going to give the newsflash view of David's relationship with, and eventual falling-out from, Saul's family...Might be interesting to actually make a little newspaper thing with some blanks for them to fill in on their own....

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