Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Slice of Life- A High Pressure Small Group Lesson

Every Tuesday, the writing community of Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life. All are welcome to participate by linking up posts or commenting on other participants. 

Small group instruction usually doesn't make me too nervous. I have a few chartbooks that are well stocked with tools, and I can usually reach for one of those. If I don't have the tool I want, I feel pretty confident about creating something quickly that does the trick. But today, I had a high-pressure small group session. 

I had the tools. I had the students. They had their writing. I had my teaching point. You're thinking this is all good, right? Oh, I forgot to mention the pair of video cameras on my right and left. 

Nothing like video cameras to raise the stakes and my blood pressure. 

As I explained to the four boys why this lesson would be important for them, one of them played with his lead pencil. You know the type. Those intriguing pencils that have several tips that insert into a plastic tube, and if you don't have them all engineered just so, the pencil doesn't work. (These pencils might have been created in order to torture teachers, especially teachers who are trying to conduct a lesson on a video tape.) Fortunately, I had a collection of felt-tip pens and made a quick trade with my friend, which he dealt with. 

"I'll give you the pencil back after the lesson," I said, as I swept up the several parts he'd managed to get his pencil into as soon as the video got rolling. 

The lesson continued, and although it wasn't perfect, it was probably good enough. And maybe it will even be affirming for others to watch some of the real-life adventures of teaching. As my friend reminded me, good=real, and perfect=unbelievable. 


  1. I had to chuckle about that pencil. I was modeling a lesson in front of 6 teachers and a video camera was rolling. It was first grade, whole group, first time for us to meet. As I was sweeping the room to get my bearings, I noticed every student had a mechanical pencil and they looked new. We were not far into the lesson when the distraction of pencil parts was more than I could handle. I stopped and we made the switch to their regular pencils. Afterward I asked why the mechanical pencils were on their desk for my lesson. ... "They were given to them by the BD student yesterday." Really? I didn't even bother commenting.

  2. Best laid plans... those moments are always easy when there isn't a video camera! Love the switch!!

  3. I am chuckling. Oh, the pencils! I suspect you're right, though, that those watching may find this affirming because, you know, this is what teaching is - it's dealing with the mechanical pencils to get to the writing.