Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wake Up!

The general public usually does not know what goes into the implementation of a home run winning lesson plan. It takes knowing your subject matter inside and out (a feat within itself), it takes knowing many various teaching strategies in order to link the right strategies with the content, and it takes an inate knowledge of the education needs for each and every student in your group. Finally, it takes knowing something about assessment strategies so that real data can be obtained to measure student progress.

However, none of my actions to plan appropriate lessons matter if my students are asleep. It can be very frustrating to be fully engrossed in teaching your plan, look out across the room, and see two or three nodding off. Yes, I’ve had my share of sleepy ones as well.

My first reaction has been one of anger. How dare they fall asleep during my lesson?!

Next I decided that perhaps it was me. Was I really that boring? I poured over my plans and looked for weak areas. Did I include enough activity for students in my plans or were they merely sitting in their seats watching me? What was the level of the “boring meter” regarding the content the lesson covered, and how could I eliminate the boring factor?

Even with all of my introspection I still had sleepy students. I’ve now come to the conclusion that it isn’t always me. There are outside environmental factors that determine how my students react in the classroom, and while I cannot control these factors I still have to address them in a manner designed to maximize the learning in my classes.

Outside environmental factors include:

*In most homes both parents work and have a set time to be at their jobs. It’s hard to get a family up and ready to go all at the same time and often what happens is some children manage to get their clothes on and fall back to sleep while their parents finish getting ready. There is no breakfast since a large majority of kids eat at school now. Once in the car many kids fall asleep again and often still asleep as they are hustled out of the car at school. They stumble into the building sometimes a good hour to 30 minutes before the school day actually begins. Even after eating a school breakfast many sit 15-20 minutes in the hallway before homeroom begins…..just long enough to nod off again.

*Some children, even the nine and ten year olds I have taught serve as caregivers for younger siblings in the afternoon and evenings. There is no time for homework or even fun sometimes because every minute is looking after little ones, preparing a meal, or cleaning the house.

*Many children are burdened with schedules that would make you and I cringe. Their afternoons are full of various lessons or practices. Sometimes ball practice of some sort last as late as 9 o’clock for some teams.

*More and more families are out and about during the evening. Go into any restaurant at 10 o’clock in my neighborhood and you see several children eating dinner with their parents.

*I often use writing assignments during Language Arts to gather more incite into the lives of my students, and what they write is very revealing. They are so honest….sometimes painfully honest. From a simple prompt such as “How I Spent My Afternoon…” I find out that many of my students are visiting the local Walmart at nine, ten, eleven and even after midnite. Some wind up with a parent who is working the late shift. One little boy plays video games every evening till midnight in his Dad’s office and then has an hour long drive home before bedtime. Another student wrote about sitting at the jail with her aunt waiting on the release of her mother. She had been picked up for drugs that morning.

*Many children don’t have a bedtime. If they do, it’s much too late. Students report they are up till all hours doing whatever they want to.

*Some children report they do have a bedtime, but once their parent goes to bed they get back up to watch the television in their room, play on their computer, read, eat, etc.

So I continue to have sleepy babies sitting in my room. One way I have attempted to improve this situation is through the use of lively music and dancing. When things seem to be getting bogged down and I notice a few are getting droopy-eyed we DANCE and DANCE, and DANCE!

Yep, we DANCE. We’ll take a break and I play some lively songs and in order to get everyone involved I’ll act as silly as I have to. They think I’m crazy the first few times, but when they see how much fun it can be they join in. No, there are no video tapes of me DANCING….thank the Lord, so don’t ask.

Once the break is over we are much more ready to tackle the content at hand and more learning can take place…….and there’s nothing like letting others see you in a silly dance move to build camaraderie among members of a group.

Some songs we have used are

Little Eva's Locomotion

Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry

Chubby Checker's Let's Twist Again

Twist and Shout with The Beatles

Shout with the Isley Brothers

Marcia Griffiths Electric Boogie (Slide)

Cha Cha Slide

Pink's Get the Party Started

And don’t discount Brain Gym for improving the alertness of droopy students.

Can you think of some other lively tunes we could use?


Gaspare Armato said...

please, take note my new history blog: www.babilonia61.com

and its feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/babilonia61/rhne

Thanks a lot.

Rino, from Italy

HappyChyck said...

This is an issue that isn't talked about enough, for sure! Some of my magnet students get on a bus at 5:15 am. They don't get home sometimes until 5:00 pm. Of course, they have homework, but many of them also have sports, dance, and church activities. That's a lifestyle they and their families choose so that they can get ahead in life.

But on the darker side there are so many students who have to care for family members or who have no control of the drama in their homes that prevents them from getting enough sleep. No matter how energizing we make our lessons, it's difficult to battle that. Just today one of my students from a chronically crazy family told me that at midnight she and her dad were called to go rescue her adult sister from her abusive boyfriend. What do you say to those sleep kids?

Mr. Lee said...

How about the song "I Like to Move It" from the Madagascar movie.

EHT said...

Thanks Rino. I'll check my links.

Hiya Happychyck! I certainly understand why many families choose an overscheduled life. There's nothing wrong with getting ahead, but it seems around here ball and cheerleading comes before school. I receive notes to excuse students fron a test because they had practice and couldn't study....

Newbie, I love that song. Just thinking about it makes me want to move. Thanks!

sobeit said...

Your post was like starting my day all over and the miserable feelings that accompanied it just flowed through the computer. We took a state practice exam today, and I felt like a complete and total failure. It wasn't that they forgot the test taking strategies that we have discussed. They didn't care, which is absolutely annoying considering that I'm held responsible for their scores. However, like you stated we have so many different "home" lives that clash with our expectations. For example, I have one student that gets up everyday at 3 a.m. and rides with her mother while she is on her paper route. WOW! I wonder if I would be able to handle that situation, and yet this third grader is expected to deal with it. Whew! Sorry that I ranted.


Mrs. Bluebird said...

I thought for a moment you were writing about my students. I have kids who tell me, often, that they get to sleep around 1-3 in the morning, then are up around 6 in order to get to school on time. (And that's assuming they have somewhere to sleep). One of the most popular television shows for my male students is Adult Swim which not only has adult content but is on way past what should be a middle schooler's bedtime. They stay up all night, playing on the computer, talking to their friends, watching tv, you name it. I've also had a few who were home alone while a parent worked the nightshift and basically stayed up because they were too scared to go to sleep. It's sad, but sleep deprivation is a real issue that's being ignored.

Dennis Fermoyle said...

EHT, here's my take on sleeping in class. If someone actually lays his or her head on their desk, that makes me angry. I consider that downright insulting. But I've had other kids fall asleep who just can't help it. I remember an excellent cross country runner who I had right after lunch. His head would be up, and I could see he was trying to pay attention. But there were many times when I'd see his eyes start to droop, and I know he wasn't trying to. That I can't get angry at. The one that takes the cake, however, is an autistic student with a sleeping disorder that I have in my first hour Basic American History class this year. I converted everything in the class to Powerpoint this year, and I couldn't wait to give the first presentation. Down went the lights, on came the projector, and twenty seconds into it, the kid was in full-scale snoring mode. Talk about a dose of humility!