Grammar. Literature. Essays. Writing devices. Story plots. I am in my own personal Heaven. English class, whether I am diagramming sentences with grade school students or reading complex text with high school students, I am having fun. I told you I’m a grammar geek.
With the elementary grades, I assist the students with creating vivid, exciting sentences for their spelling words or stories. To keep their minds dynamic, I suggest the students think in specifics rather than generals. In a third grade class I substituted for, we did a few spelling words together.
I wrote a general sentence on the board using the spelling word “swoop”:
A bird swoops down to the river to catch a fish.
Then I engaged the students to give me particulars, to paint a vivid image of what they were thinking about.
What kind of bird? Was it an eagle, a falcon , or a terradactyl?
Did it have talons? [This gives me a chance to increase their vocabulary, if they don’t know this word.]
Where was the bird before it took off? Was it on the top of a cliff, a mountain, or a dead tree?
What’s the name of the river? Was the water wild, turbulent, or tranquil? [Possibly new vocabulary here again.]
What kind of fish did it catch? Picture it in your mind, I tell them. Was it a largemouth bass, a trout, maybe a salmon?
Our final sentence for the spelling word “swoop” was:
The eagle swoops down from its nest on the bare cliff ledge to rake its talons through the tranquil water of the Colorado River and snatch a rainbow trout.
At the high school level, I get to expand my mind a little more. There is so much great literature out there that I haven’t read. I’ve learned to look for deeper meaning in literature, be it a novel, poem, or play. And I do so enjoy a story with a profound plot, something to contemplate. No, I don’t find everything. I make discoveries in the text right along with the students most times. I can place the story or poem in its historical context for students, explaining–when the teacher leaves me notes or when I know–the culture and timeframe of the story or poem. I clarify plots and character actions that I notice for the students.
Even in English class, I learn something new, be it a new story or new vocabulary or a new way to present a concept. This is what makes substitute teaching exciting and challenging. I just need to make sure that my insight and information are grade appropriate.