Creating a Classroom Culture: Supporting Students to Speak and Listen with Confidence (Day 2 of 2)

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SWBAT initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners by watching a photo album presentation and unpacking the word "attitude."

Big Idea

How do we begin to learn about each other and excel in English 9?

Video Introduction

3 minutes

In the attached resource video, I introduce why I selected this lesson as one of my beginning of the year lessons and how unpacking the word "attitude" can effect my students achievement throughout the year.


25 minutes

Block Periods

This year my high school decided to experiment with a 75 minute block schedule.  I like teaching in longer blocks because it gives me more time to cover my lesson's objectives and affords my students more time to process the information given.   75 minute periods has its challenges as well.  Students need to be given a variety of tasks that offer opportunities to work alone, in pairs and/or in groups. 

 Relationship Building

On the first day I let students sit where they want to and observe who is near someone that may be talkative or who might be a good learning partner.  I will make adjustments to the seating arrangement during the week.

A teacher can have a great CCSS lesson design but if one cannot get students attention little happens in the class.  I rarely have this problem on my first day of meeting students and I take full advantage of it.  Wearing a turban and having an unshaven beard, students are naturally curious about where I'm from, my religion, do I have a family, etc.  Many have not heard of Sikhism and I use this as a teaching moment as well as a relationship-building experience.  I believe, within professional boundaries,  it is good teaching practice to share some of who you are as a person because the more your students get to know you the more they will let you get to know them.  Students enjoy hearing interesting experiences you have had outside of school. 

Photo Album

I designed a brief autobiographical power point photo album.  I begin the activator with the power point photo album.  It begins with the days agenda which includes course expectations or Syllabus.  I discuss the photos and why I included them in this presentation.  I give students opportunities to ask questions of me as I will with them. Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives is an essential part of the Comprehension and Collaboration Common Core standard. This activity supports the process of cooperative discussion by A Brief Photo Album reflecting on my photos, listening to my descriptions of what they are seeing and asking respectful questions.  In the power point presentation, slide #17 is a black and white photo of my family standing with a very large man who I met in New Mexico. He turned out to be an actor and professional wrestler that most students recognized.  I included this photo to discuss how we can jump to conclusions about someone based on their appearance. Because of his size I was first uneasy about talking with him but after meeting realized he was a very interesting and kind man.  I wanted to point this slide out because I consciously included it to spark discussion and connection with my students. I knew many of them would recognize the actor. The final slide illustrates Springfield, the town in which my students live, and is used to stimulate their feelings about their education and what they need to do in order to graduate. 

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

How Important is Your Attitude?

I use the cooperative learning activity, Think Write Pair Share, for the discussion part of the lesson. Think-Write-Pair-Share is a good way for you and your students to verify what has been learned by comparing lecture notes, doing a quiz review, checking for comprehension on a word or reading assignments, and responding to discussion questions.  I've attached a complete description of the TWPS strategy SL.9-10.1.

 I ask students to think of the word "Attitude" which I write on the board and then define it.  I  ask them next to write down their definitions and share it with their learning partners L.9-10.4.

A working definition I use for "Attitude" is the way we choose to see life.  I explain that we can decide what kind of attitude we want and I tell a story of two students I met during the first couple of days of school. One student asked me, "Mr. Khalsa, what is this high school like?"  I asked, "What was your middle school like?" He said, "I didn't like many of the teachers and everyone was mean to me." I replied, "We'll you may find this school to be the same."  A few hours later I met another student from the same middle school who also wanted to know what the high school was like.  I asked, "What was your experience in the middle school?"  He said, "My teachers were really nice and I learned a lot.  I also made a lot of friends there.  I'll miss it."  I replied, "You'll most likely find the same is true here."  I then asked how can two students from the same middle school have very different experiences and opinions of the school?  I next ask how their past opinions may effect their experience in high school?

I pass out the "How Important is My Attitude worksheet and ask students to follow the directions which asks them to assign a number to each letter in the word "attitude."  The number corresponds to the letter's place in the alphabet. For example A would have a number 1 next it and so on.  They then add up all the numbers to find out how important is someones attitude.  The numbers add up to 100%!  One of my students asked, "I wonder if the person who invented the word "attitude knew that?" 

I begin the discussion by sharing the results of a study looking at why people achieve their goals in life and why they don't.  The study found that one of the most significant differences between high and low achievers was not intelligence as determined on an IQ test but their attitude! 

I ask students to recheck their definitions and add or change anything that they now believe to define "attitude."  


Student Learning Activity

25 minutes

Guess Who...

Students are given a "Guess Who...question sheet.  The directions are on the sheet but to increase understanding especially for my auditory learners I read them a loud saying, "Think about the questions you’re asked to answer and do not show anyone what you've written.  I will give you about 5 minutes to finish writing your answers and then collect the papers W.9-10.10.  I will then read the answers and everyone will try to guess who wrote them.  After taking turns guessing, I'll say "Will the person whose favorite food is...and finds it easy to...please stand up or raise your hand."  You can choose any two questions you feel give a clue as to who wrote it.  I also choose answers that are the same as other peers to demonstrate the similarities they share.

If you run out of time you can continue with this activity the next day because if they say it or not all the students want a turn at their peers guessing who they are.  I point out some of the similarities and difference the students share with each other such as, "Many of you like Chinese food" or "Joseph and Crystal both watch Glee."  This activity begins the process of having students get to know and understand each other as peers and classmates.

The Guess Who… activity is from a book I authored entitled Inclusive Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators, Good Year Books.



10 minutes

One Word Summary

Using the One Word Summary handout, I ask students to search for one key word to represent or summarize the word Attitude.  Once the students identified their essential word, they write two or three sentences to explain the word choice.

One Word Summary can also be used for the topic or concept studied in class.  This invites students to be creative in their summaries, and to work to find for a word that will support their retention of key ideas associated with the topic.  As an alternative to words students can create a symbol or logo but still need to write an explanation.