To fully understand some of my references, might need to have read He’s the Weird Teacher blog post on Singles and Doubles
I recently had my AP European History class use the graphic novel The Great War by Joe Sacco (link to purchase here), we had been discussing World War I, the causes, the technology, the battles, and I just KNEW this would be the perfect wrap-up and closer.
I had planned for students to observe the graphic novel in four parts (it’s one very long panorama so dividing it up made sense both classroom logistically and educationally), I had guiding questions for students to answers and make their own observations, and then students were going to write their own journal entry as if they were present in the story. I was excited – I was using a graphic novel to tell a moving story to wrap up an important part of the class, and it was right before Spring Break so I knew I had to pull out all the stops to keep the kids engaged.
Then class started, I have two periods of AP Euro – one mid-day and one the last period of the day. And neither class went as expected. In 6th period (mid-day) kids walked around quietly (very atypical of these kids and my class) and made observations, a few whispered questions to either other pointing out details – YES THIS IS WHAT I WANTED. Then we moved on to start the journal – and wheels come flying off. Long story short – no journal was written. The kids started talking to each other and asking questions. They compared their observations, asked questions, wanted to know more about the story being told (the novel depicts a real battle from World War I). This was going better than I thought. I thought I had a double lesson planned, and it became a home run. Some of my boys (15 year old boys are some of the hardest to get engaged), said this was the best day of class of the year, they loved it.
This was a game winning homerun even.
Now I was excited for 9th period, a class full of boys. I quickly modified the assignment so after the observations, we would host a discussion instead of writing a journal. I JUST KNEW this would recreate the 6th period game winner.
And boy was I wrong – dead wrong.
We walked around making observations, they answered questions, whispered details to each other (so far so good). But then we gathered to have discussions of their observations and crickets. Nothing. Warning track power, final out, we lose by one.
By removing the journal entry, the kids didn’t make the same observations, they didn’t put themselves in the story. I tried to force one class experience upon another. I didn’t give them their voice, I forced 6th period’s upon them.