I recently had the opportunity read Angela Watson’s new book Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What. This book could not have come at a better time in my life. With state testing and the immense pressure that comes with that, I had been feeling overwhelmed and letting this affect my joy of teaching. I chose “Chapter 10: Uncover the compelling reason for every lesson you teach” because it really spoke to some of my current stress.
The demands we place on students seem to get more and more difficult each year. This year my students (some who are reading on a 3rd grade level because English is their second language) have to read two grade level passages that are 1 1/2 to 2 pages in length each, then write a 5 paragraph essay analyzing the passages and pulling details from both to do so. Unfortunately, I have some students that can barely get through the reading of the first passage. One of my teammates and I are always discussing the fact this is not appropriate to a majority of our students. Instead of complaining about whether or not this is appropriate, I should be looking for the compelling reason that we have to teach this and share that reason with my students.
With all this weighing on me, I dove into the chapter with hopes that I would gain some insight. This quote from the book really summed up my previous thoughts on paired passage analysis as well as many other aspects of teaching.
I was literally nodding my head when I read this. It was definitely me and how I viewed the majority of the standards that I was having to teach my students.
Angela offered some thoughtful insight and realistic tips to help overcome these feelings and find compelling reasons for even the most mundane standards we are required to teach. Here are my favorite strategies that Angela recommends:
Instead of sharing ways and reasons particular lessons will be important in the far off future, think about the now that your students are currently living in. Why is this lesson important to their lives now? I have always believed that students remember skills and content that is interesting or that they feel is important. Make the skill important to them in their lives now, and that may give them the desire to master the skill.
I loved this tip. My students are always interested in current events. If I could find a way to connect some of the standards that seem so irrelevant to the real world, I know they would soar with the standards and the task. There are so many ways that students can help in the community, and integrating real world projects with mundane or seemingly irrelevant standards is definitely a win-win!
This strategy is the one that resonated with me the most. So many times, I have complained that my students don’t have perseverance, they don’t have compassion, etc. However, what was I doing to counter this? Nothing, because the demands of the curriculum were overwhelming. Angela suggests making a list of the skills that your students are lacking. When you are teaching lessons that you cannot find a compelling reason to teach, pull out your list and tie in one of the skills to the lesson. Brilliant!
I can’t say enough about this book. Angela’s real world advice and tips are just what I need to stay motivated to finish the year. To check out the book and grab yourself a copy, click on the link below.
To read about the other chapters and discover 19 other ways to enjoy teaching, click here.
5th Grade Happenings says
You are absolutely right. We have to be able to find things relevant to our students in order to teach at their level.
Thanks for sharing.
Angela Watson says
Jennifer, your example about asking kids to read two grade level passages that are 1 1/2 to 2 pages in length each then write a 5 paragraph essay analyzing the passages and pulling details from both is EXACTLY the type of thing that frustrates me, too! I've wasted so much energy bemoaning how unfair and developmentally inappropriate that is, but of course, the complaining doesn't do anything but put me in a bad mood. I love the way you drew out points about uncovering compelling reasons and making learning meaningful for kids. That doesn't fix the inappropriate standards problem, but it really goes a long way toward motivating kids (and ourselves)!
Angela S says
I truly enjoyed reading your post. I teach 5th-7th grade special learners. It is so crucial to keep ourselves motivated to find appropriate resources for our kiddos…especially if we are going to keep them chugging along. I can totally relate to your dilemma with your ESL students where reading levels just do not match what they are expected to conquer…and I am always looking for ways to spice it up, so to speak. I am following your link now to check out this book…you really did a fab. job selling it! =]
The Organized Plan Book
Nicole Marie says
Jennifer, I teach ELLs. This is the most difficult thing when teaching ELA. I am buying this book and I can't wait to share my thoughts about it. 🙂