Sunday, January 20, 2008

How Full is Your Bucket?

I've been on a voracious reading streak as of late. The latest selection, How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath (authored Strengths Finder 2.0) and Donald Clifton, is actually for my seniors.
This group of seniors are designated as Level 2, which is the second lowest designation at my school. All year, I've struggled to get much of anything in the way of actual learning from them. We tried short stories; they didn't connect with them. We tried a Business Writing Unit with a presentation; over half of the class did not do the presentation or the writing assignments. After Beowulf came out in the movies, they asked if we could read that. The results were mixed, and I had to do most of the reading because on their own they were lost.
After finishing What Great Teachers Do Differently, I decided to abandon my attempts at literature in the classic understanding for English teachers. Instead, I searched for non-fiction texts that my students might find valuable--meaning books with information they can actually use in their worlds. I narrowed the texts to two, How Full is Your Bucket? and Please Send Money: A Financial Survival Guide for Young Adults on Their Own. The class was divided, so we'll do two book clubs simultaneously.
I began reading How Full is Your Bucket? today. The premise of the book is that positive interactions benefit us in our daily lives. I figure that my students, most of whom come from poverty and a system that does not embrace them, will have gain valuable understanding from this book.
But, trying to come up with a unit plan has me stumped. I'll admit that unit planning is a weakness of mine. I think I am great at teaching lessons, but adequate at preparing them. At any rate, the one golden idea that I have is to have the group reading How Full is Your Bucket? present the material at one of our Professional Development days. The truth is that our staff and leaders need to hear the information in this book geared towards successful business leadership.
How amazing would that be? To have some of our lowest academic students (mostly because of poor effort) teaching our staff the importance of filling each others' buckets with positive thoughts? Now that would be a lesson.


At 5:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whenever I have a brainstorm like yours (having the kids present at a PD meeting) my thoughts turn to how to get them there. What will the kids need in terms of information, skills, and techniques?
In this case you have to help them learn how to mine the book for the information, and how to connect that information with what they have learned in their own lives, so they can eventually present it in a convincing way.
Practicing close reading (briefly--having them pull quotes that they think are important from each section and explain what the quote means to them and why they find it important) and keeping double or triple entry journals as they read (they pull a quote and write it in the first column, in the second column they agree with it, disagree, or connect to it in some way—you can have a third column in which you or a partner responds to their thoughts) are just two of many ways to help them “discover” the info in the book.
As for skills, keep in mind that they already have some, but don’t necessarily see how they can bring them to bear in the situation you are setting up. From what you say, these kids aren’t dumb, just lacking in effort. They will need you to help them see how to tease out the significant ideas from a text, how to organize their thoughts, how to speak clearly before a group, how to present as a panel, how to figure out what the audience needs. In short, you have to teach them how to be teachers.
For techniques, they are going to need to be taught how to give an interesting presentation that engages the listeners and connects them with the information. You don’t want to embarrass the kids by having them stand up there mumbling something as they point to posterboards. You want to have them practice ways to get the teachers involved with the text, responding to the ideas, seeing the students as facilitators, not exhibitions.
My point here is that good planning means figuring out what you REALLY want the kids to gain from this experience and then organize activities that will get them there step by step. Keep in mind that the learning is in the journey far more than in the arrival.


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