First things first, here are the PseudoTweet posts you all composed last night.  I hope you enjoyed and found some educational merit in the activity.

  • Helen Krebs:  My brother is so lazy since coming home.  I wonder what he’s going to do with himself.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Why doesn’t my son love me anymore?
  • Helen Krebs:  Hare probably won’t ever pitch to me in the back yard anymore—he just reads and walks to town and sleeps.
  • Helen Krebs:  Don’t get why my brother is so different.  What’s wrong with him?  Can’t we just play ball?
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Harold, have you found a JOB yet?
  • Harold Krebs:  No one understands what I went through.  My parents don’t respect me as a grown man.
  • Harold Krebs:  Goin’ by the girls’ school to see sis play some ball.  She’s got a killer arm and her friends think I’m cute.
  • Harold Krebs:  Mom made me breakfast in bed again.  Love the bacon, hate the passive-aggressive convo.
  • Helen Krebs:  Is it weird to call your brother your beau?  I just want to make sure he knows I love him, even now.  Especially now.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  My son is back from war and just isn’t the same—unmotivated, not interested in girls.  Are other moms experiencing the same?  Help?!?!
  • Short-haired girl who walks down street (to BFF):  Who is that creepy man who keeps watching us walk?  He makes me nervous.  Let’s walk a different way tomorrow!
  • Helen Krebs:  Don’t think anyone’s coming to my indoor game.  They think I haven’t noticed about Harold but I have.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  I am worried about my son.  He just lays around all day, walking aimlessly.  He sleeps till noon.  I wonder when he’ll get back to normal.
  • Mrs. Krebs:  Please pray for my dear son Harold.  He’s lost and needs healing from the Lord.
  • Helen Krebs:  Krebs is being so weird lately.  I wish he’d get back to his old self; I can’t figure him out!
  • Harold Krebs:  Geez, everyone should just leave me alone!  Nothing’s wrong with me!
  • Harold Krebs:  Lies are my essence.  The world is full of ‘em.
  • Helen Krebs:  Hare is coming tonight so I better pitch like crazy!  Have to pitch an A-game, time to impress!  He taught me how.
  • Harold Krebs:  Had I known then what I know now I would have never enlisted in the war.  It’s not like had to go; I chose to go.

On to my reflection . . .

Thank you all for listening so attentively to my presentation.  I have to admit, it was actually pretty disorienting to stand up there and see that I had everyone’s undivided attention.  (Needless to say, I’m not used to that with my 10th graders!)  I felt much more like a presenter than a teacher, as I don’t feel I incorporated enough hands-on activities to keep a group of 10th graders interested, but I hope the activities I was describing (when conducted in real life) would have done so.  In comparing my presentation with other people’s, I feel like I talked/explained too much and didn’t get “students” involved enough, but I knew that was going to be the case as I was planning.  I opted for a more information-based presentation partially because I was too stubborn to let go of any of the pieces of the lesson, but also because I was confident that you all wouldn’t need to do every activity in order to understand the learning objectives I have for my real students.  In any event,  I’m not sure it mattered as much to you as it did to me, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

It was very difficult to forgo the discussion sections of my lesson plan because I knew you guys would have had great points to talk about.  Unfortunately, that’s not the reality of my everyday interactions with students, so although I would have personally enjoyed the intellectual discourse, I had to refrain from indulging in large- and small-group discussions of the text.  (I had considered scripting a more realistic discussion, but I decided to save everyone the pain.  I think we’ve all been there when the crickets are chirping—no need to simulate  the agony!)

I feel like the main thing I could have done differently would be to slow down and talk about a few assignments more in depth instead of trying to race through 2+ days of lesson plans.  Were I to do it over, I think I would focus on a few specific activities rather than providing an overview of everything.  One part of me doesn’t feel like I did justice to my learning objectives with PseudoTweet and the question flood because I glossed over them so quickly; I would have liked to have had more time to talk through my rationale for each one—which, in short, was that I wanted to encourage (force) students to read, engage, re-read, and re-engage with the story.  And I wish I had remembered to mention where I got the inspiration for my activities (Blau, Elbow, Greene, and Salvatori & Donahue).  Another part of me keeps saying that I explained it all in writing and that you are intelligent people who can read, so I didn’t need to bore you by lingering over details you were capable of reading on your own.  But I still think I could have slowed down and explained better.

I also feel like I should have incorporated more hands-on activities for the benefit of the audience.  I planned to do three participatory activities, but only got to two—the question flood and PseudoTweet posts; I was also planning to have you write/discuss one of the journal responses, but that was the first to go due to time.  (Sidenote:  I keep noticing that I’m thinking of you guys as the audience more than as students because I felt like I was presenting much more than actually teaching.)  Ironically, I sped through the explanations so quickly that I ended with more time than I expected and ended up being disappointed that I hadn’t included the journal/discussion activity I had planned to include in the middle.  I tried to revisit the topic of that lost activity (the story’s title), and I appreciate you guys having something to say about it, but that conversation didn’t flow as I would have liked.

Overall, I’m pleased with the lessons I created if not with how well I articulated them.  As I think I explained last night (it’s a bit of a blur), I had already read the story with my real students, and we did some of the activities, but I tweaked my 610 lesson considerably after seeing what did and didn’t work in my classroom.  I’m looking forward to trying last night’s version of the lesson next year when I have more time to dig into the story with students.

Please share any thoughts or suggestions you have about any part of my lesson or handouts.  I’m especially interested to hear what people think about the types of activities as well as the pacing of the lesson.  I’ve never purposely avoided full-class discussions as much as I did in this lesson, and it felt risky, so if you have thoughts about that, please let me know!

14 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. abbie

    Nikki—- I really liked the question flood idea. I’d never heard of that before, but it worked for me when doing it, and I can see how it would work beautifully for high school students as well. When you’re “forced” to come up with questions, you often come up with some really good ones. It also encourages (forces :)) rereading, as you mention.

    I also liked your inspiration to focus on the story’s title. Honestly, I didn’t give it a second thought when I read the story, but when asked to think about it, I realized how much meaning it held (and ambiguity, of course). That, combined with the question flood, /should/ give students a good start in recognizing ambiguity and difficulty, and an understanding that ALL readers of literature, no matter at what stage or age, must work through textual difficulties one step at a time.

    You may have felt rushed in shoving through 2-3 really full days of activities, but as someone who has never taught before, it was very helpful — everyone who’s given broader overviews has really helped me out. I find that really important and interesting, so thank you.

    Great job!

  2. toddkelly

    I thought you explained everything well, it did not seem rushed to me. You had some interesting activities that will help students tease out their own meaning of the story instead of regurgitating what their teacher told them. I like the tweeting idea, and wished there was a better way to use that technology in FCPS. Great lesson(s), I cannot really think of anyway that I would improve on it.

  3. Professor Sample

    On a technical note, I may have found a solution for your pseudo-tweet idea that doesn’t rely on Blackboard. There is a similar Twitter-like service, called, which allows you to create either an open or private Twitter-like service. It’s open-source and free, and since it can be closed-door (only those students registered for a certain group would be able to see that group’s status updates), parents would be less likely to be concerned. You could create a Twitter-like service that only your students participate in and would be clearly designated as “for school.” Plus, it still follows all the constraints of Twitter (140 characters, etc.).

  4. afaye

    Your lesson was so helpful, to me and your students! I am in love with the Question Flood and I hope you don’t mind, but I am adapting it for a Question Relay in my own lesson (don’t worry you will always be fully crediting with the idea :)). I was blown away with how well you placed the responsibility of interpretation in your students hands with the approachable activity of questions. Thank you for the worksheet! Finding the right questions to ask is something I am struggling with, but I like how you structured your inquires. You may have felt rushed, but I so appreciated the full breakdown of three days in thirty minutes, as Abbie commented. Discussion seems to be the tightrope of teaching and it is useful to know the realities of your classroom practice. Thank you for a great lesson and the wonderful activities!

  5. Lindsay

    Like everyone else who has posted, I loved loved loved the question flood idea. It really gets the students to be engaged and reflective about the text AND it’s an approachable way to attack the idea of “difficulty” with your high school students. I liked how you said that you encouraged your students to compete with each other about who could come up with the most questions because it emphasizes the fact that having questions about a text is completely normal and actually a good thing! I will definitely use that activity if/when I teach.

    As for the rest of your presentation, I thought it was awesome. You clearly know your students and you come up with some really creative activities to get them thinking about the text. The PseudoTweet assignment was great because it not only got your students to think about the text from another angle, but it also forced them to summarize the story, in a sense, by putting a 30-word limit on the tweet.

    I can tell you are great teacher. Thanks for lots of great ideas!

  6. Alicia

    If I seemed at all quiet (is that possible? ever?) it was only because I was stunned by the massive amount of preparation you had to do for this lesson. I bow down to your planning and preparation! If you do this for every lesson, I don’t know how you keep going. Wow.

    I also have a lot to consider when it comes to incorporating technology into my own lesson planning, and you did a great job of that. The fact that you could even show us where the lesson did and didn’t work was great, because it showed some pitfalls we might avoid in our own efforts.

    Wow – and thanks for a superb demonstration!

    1. nikki

      Incorporating technology into lessons can be tricky because we have SOME technology in FCPS, but it’s not quite as useful as the school district likes to think it is. And of course there’s the issue that not all students have computer/internet access at home. The advantage of using technology is that it engages more students more often (the bells and whistles alone get their attention), but it definitely has drawbacks. It was interesting to experiment with some of Blackboard’s functions, but it made me more frustrated than anything!

      I’m glad you found the information useful, but no, I definitely don’t prepare THAT much for every single lesson I teach! 🙂 Most of the time I’m flying by the seat of my pants making changes on the spur of the moment. I’m just glad I’ve been teaching long enough that I now feel comfortable making those changes at the last minute.

  7. adalton4

    Since you asked for comment on avoiding discussions in particular, I think it can definitely be a useful strategy! I sometimes specify with my students not to share ideas before completing an assignment so that they will be focusing on their own, original ideas as much as possible. I think it definitely has a time and place!

    I really liked that you had examples for us of student work on this lesson. It gave me a barometer on what to expect from students if I taught a lesson like this and that’s always scary to go in without.

    1. nikki

      Thanks for your input about avoiding the large-scale discussion. What sorts of activities do you typically have students do before facilitating a full-class discussion? From what you’ve said in class, I get the sense that our student groups are very similar, so I’d love to hear what is working well for you.

      The main trouble I have is trying to avoid feeding students “the answers” via class discussion while also encouraging them to take a risk to write their own interpretations on paper. (They are hesistant to hazard a guess if they don’t feel like their interpretations are valid.) Have you had any luck with activities that skate that fine line?

  8. Susanna

    I meant to post this earlier, but I love this pseudotweet idea! Given the technology constraint placed on a lot of students (who may not have access to the internet or even own a computer), I also like just using the index cards. Despite the fact that there are no character constraints, I quite like the idea of having this activity happen in class, the way it did during your presentation.

    I concur with what everyone else has said about the immense amount of preparation you put into this presentation. Thank you for sharing with us all a number of ideas we can use in our own classrooms. 🙂

    1. nikki

      I hadn’t thought of doing the activity just in class with index cards, but now that you mention it, I see possibilities with that avenue as well. (Students could bounce ideas off each other, trade cards, react to others’ posts, etc.) I’m fortunate in that almost all of my honors students have computer/internet access at home, but if I were to do a similar activity with my regular classes, I would have to take them to the computer lab here at school or just ask them to do the activity on paper. I’m going to try a combo of the PseudoTweet/Ivanhoe ideas with my regular students tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes… Thanks for the feedback!

      1. Professor Sample

        I can definitely see the usefulness of notecards. You could collect them all and have students try to arrange them in a way that makes sense or that adds an entire parallel track to the story. This sounds like the PseudoTweet/Ivanhoe combo you’re thinking about.

  9. Ashley

    I love the idea of using twitter in your classroom. I think it is a form of technology that students really understand and what a great way to take on character in the story. It is really a great idea! I enjoyed your presentation, plus I love Hemingway.

  10. Susan

    I haven’t presented yet, but it seems like the teacher/presenter shift would be disorienting (as Prof Sample has explained the awkwardness of this balancing act). I actually have not read “Soldier’s Home” before, so the discussion was interesting to me, especially regarding the syntactical ambiguity of the title.

    I think you do a great job of bringing in historical and cross-textual insight into the story by having students do outside research for homework. Also, I am a big fan of the “difficulty paper” assignment, so your post-reading reflection on “what was challenging?” and “what techniques did you use to gain understanding?” and a separate post-activity reflection that mimicked a “difficulty paper” was spot on. The question flood is also a great idea, which I haven’t considered before, and one that I would use.

    I admire you for taking on the pseudo tweets on blackboard. It seems like you have learned how to improve that activity by actually doing the activity with your students, so I have no feedback there. You even had a back up plan if the students pulled the “I can’t think of what to say from any character’s p.o.v”. All in all your presentation was comprehensive and impressive.

Comments are closed.