August 12, 2006 1 min read
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What went wrong in class last year? Plenty, judging by the responses to that Talkback question on our Web site. Here’s a sampling:

I am a 4th grade teacher completely frustrated by students’ lack of common manners and courtesy. This has been a simply awful year, with disrespect and bullying rampant. My only solution has been to keep them constantly engaged in some kind of structured activity. I swore I would never become “queen of the handouts,” but it has literally saved my sanity and kept the class relatively peaceful.

I’m just finishing my second year. The biggest mistake I made was not being organized to start. Today I’m finally sorting through stuff I should’ve done much earlier. I also had my hard drive crash and didn’t have my assignments or grading info anywhere other than on the computer. I will be keeping a book on all of my assignments for next year.

My 7th grade language/lit block fell apart in the last five weeks of school. Over the school year we had studied research, essay writing, and nonfiction literature. The final project was to complete all the steps learned in research, including observing copyright laws and avoiding plagiarism. From week five of the final nine weeks, the students were to complete research, outlines, rough drafts, and either a PowerPoint project or a written paper. The projects I received were almost all plagiarized—the complete opposite of what they had been taught.

As a social studies teacher, I have a hard time gaining the attention of my students. So this year, I included art as often as possible. We created Native American medallions, African quilts, and even honored a civil rights activist with an art piece. The students loved it and asked me frequently what our next art project would be. Allowing the students to do art took the burden off of me—they did the research and demonstrated their knowledge in a creative way.

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