Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Popcorn Goes the Weasel

Without getting into the horrendous details, I made the mistake of trying to do popcorn reading in my freshmen class today. What am I saying? There are no details to why I did such a stupid thing. I guess I’d just been hit over the head enough times with all the “in theory only” teaching strategies that I had been brainwashed into believing that it would work with my most malleable students I had, the freshmen.

For those not hip to this scene, popcorn reading is a practice that puts the reading into the students’ hands. S/he reads as much as a passage as s/he feels comfortable doing and then utters the word “popcorn” to indicate a desire to switch readers followed by a fellow student’s name, who then repeats the process. In a perfect situation, a substantial amount of the students will have flexed his/her reading muscles by the time the activity is finished.

Sadly, in a real situation only the jack-a-ninny muscles get flexed.

First, there are the ones who read one word before saying, “popcorn,” even though you said that wasn’t allowed. Then there are the friends who tease one another by volleying “popcorns” back and forth, though that too was covered in the instructions. But one wrinkle that I didn’t see coming was the kid who added “balls” every time he said, “popcorn.” To make things worse he said it like, “ballllz,” for emphasis. And on top of that—he decided to defend himself when I attempted to modify his behavior. You can probably guess how that went.

“What? “Popcornballs’ is a word. You eat them.”

“Actually, it’s two wor—“

“Ha! See!”

“See what? That you can neither spell, nor count?”

If there is a bright side, then I guess it is that I now have a pretty good idea who carved BALLLLZ into one of my desks.

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