TPR, Engagement, Joy

I’ve been having a great couple of days.  Last week I had a bit of trouble with some of my classes.  Student’s weren’t being cooperative, and some had a pretty negative attitude.  I left at the end of that day feeling pretty down and angry.  I was angry at some of the students who were constantly misbehaving.  This anger lead to a great workout at the gym, and during my cool down, that anger started to subside and I came up with a TPR (Total Physical Response) activity to try to engage the students a bit more.  I hoped that if class was a bit more fun they might behave better and learn more.  

On Friday, I tested out this activity and only received a little success.  My first class was very shy and many students didn’t want to participate.  I was insistent and that helped get some students to play along for a bit.  My later classes really got into it and while I had to encourage some students, there was some level of participation with everyone.  After this activity, everyone wrote a paragraph explaining what they did and how it related to what we were learning.  Students transitioned well from chaos to silent writing and they started to make more sense of kinetic and potential energy.

On Monday, both of my physics classes had high participation and the behavior problems were mostly gone.  The students did the activity and then transitioned very smoothly to writing.  Even students that normally do very little work completed both the TPR activity and the paragraph.  This success helped make it easier for me to give lots of positive feedback and encouragement and the students responded well.  After school, I worked with a student to catch him up (and work off a detention for bad behavior) and he made an incredible acrostic poem.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good the poem was and how successful this assignment was.  I believe this student was proud of his work and I even made a copy so that I could put it up on the wall (I first asked for the original but he said he wanted to keep it).  

From this experience, I decided to have all of my students do acrostic poems, which we started in class and they will continue for homework.  They students worked well on it while they had time in class and one student gave up his lunch to come in and work on it.  During the class period, we did a competition where students identified the mistakes in physics statements and the whole class was well engaged and participated.  The winners got a bag of Hot Cheetos, which is apparently the best thing in the world.  Students were telling me to have more games like this and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.  There were still some issues with talking, but the participation and level of on task work was well above average.  I’m going to try to work these high engagement activities into more lessons so that students enjoy my class and learn more because of it.  Right now my job is too much fun.

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