How I Made my Students Really Mad

This semester, I am back to teaching a composition course for college freshmen. Apart from learning in-depth about research writing, we also read the play A Raisin in the Sun in College Writing II.  This play took stage in 1959, and it focused on an African American family in Chicago. It showed what life was like for blacks in the 50’s and 60’s. I wanted my students to know a little more about the civil rights movement and also the discrimination and segregation of this time period in American history.

To begin the lesson, I asked everyone with blue or green eyes to sit on the left side of the room and everyone with brown eyes to sit on the right side of the room. They were expecting a quiz on the introduction to the book, so they were very confused about what I was doing. I explained that instead of a quiz, we would be working on something else for which they would receive points. I gave the blue/green eyed students a page copied from the dictionary and told them they had to copy it letter-for-letter, word-for-word. They all glared at me with a look that seemed to say -Uh, are you serious? The brown-eyed students seemed scared to get their assignment next. However, they were relieved when I told them they would be working on a word search puzzle about pizza. As they were working, I told them to be sure and find the word pepperoni. I went over to the other side of the room and told that students that they better finish the whole page. I let this go on for about 3 minutes, then I finally allowed them to stop. I asked them how they felt knowing that the other half of the room was working on a different assignment. The light-eyed group said they felt angry at me and at the other group of students. They said they wondered what they did to deserve the terrible assignment. The brown-eyed group said they felt badly but not badly enough to exchange assignments with anyone or to even ask questions about why the assignments were different. I did have one blue-eyed guy ask me why he had to do the dictionary assignment and not the pizza one. It all worked perfectly. I asked my students to relate their feelings and the way I treated them to how Africa-Americans felt in the past. I think it really hit home with them and made a good point.

I then went on to show 2 YouTube videos. This first video really makes me emotional. I really can’t believe this happened so recently in my own country. I can’t fathom why people thought they were better solely based on their skin color. This video is a general overview of everything that happened. It’s about 5 minutes long.

The second video is about Bull Connor, who greatly influenced the civil rights movement, because of the terrible things he allowed to happen in Birmingham, Alabama while he was the commissioner of public safety for the city. It’s about 10 minutes long and really worth the watch.

After the activity, the videos, and a discussion, I really felt my students were ready to read A Raisin in the Sun and fully understand the context and the time period. I hope that no matter the grade level, this recap of my lesson might be helpful for you to teach about the civil rights movement, especially since it is black history month. Share with me some ideas you’ve used to teach this same topic.

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College is a Wonderful Place Full of Candy Around Every Corner (or Advice to College Freshmen)

I teach a first year experience course, and at the end of the course, the students write a paper giving advice to next year’s freshmen. As college freshmen begin to move on campus and start the next phase of their lives, I’d like to share some of this (hilarious) advice.

– “Do not fall in love with the first guy or girl that you meet. That was harder than I thought!”

– “In high school, freshmen get picked on all the time and are thought of as the scum of the earth. However, in college, I have found that the only difference between a senior and a freshman guy is facial hair.”

– “…through a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, actual tears, racism, stares, breaking down, doubt, a car crash, and one concussion later, I have learned to persevere.”

– “You can get a job at the school, like making sure people don’t steal stuff from the library.”

– “The good drink machines are on the second floor. It has all the good drinks and always works.”

– “I still remember the look on my face when my parents left, and I was lost. Now I look back with a smile on my face, because now I have no fears.”

– “…sometimes it was interesting, and I liked it, but other times it was boring and I fell asleep.”

-“Most kids are used to being spoon-fed their whole life, and they really do not know how hard it is to be on their own.”

-“You never think you would miss beating up on your little brother every day until you can’t anymore.”

-“When you’re sitting in bed debating on whether or not to go to class, get up and just go,”

-” I thought if I could go here and become a better wrestler, get big muscles, and possibly a girlfriend in the process, then why not?”

-“It’s nice to have a little brotherly brotherhood.”

-“After extensive private lessons in American Sign Language, I now know how to sign bacon.”

-“Being away from home is hard. Especially 2,355 miles away.”

-“College is a wonderful place full of wonderment, surprises, and candy around every corner. Ok, I lied about that last part.”

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Boys Will Be Boys

I am currently teaching at a university in the US. Apart from my ESL classes, I also teach some freshmen in composition courses and first-year experience courses. The college freshman is a rare species-especially the guys. Freshmen feel like they have something to prove. They were recently the oldest in school, the ones in charge, and now they’re right back down to the bottom of the food chain. And boys will be boys no matter how old they are and no matter what country they’re in. They still want to prove they’re tough, especially to females- even their female teacher.

I took some wasabi peas to class today that are so hot I’m pretty sure they’re soaked in acid and not wasabi. Wiping tears from their eyes, 5 college guys swore they weren’t hot.

Boys will be boys.

What Gives Girls Their Magical Powers?!

At the beginning of each English class, I have my students journal for 5 minutes. I always give them a topic, and some of the topics are ones they have suggested. Recently we did the following topic: “If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what would you do.” Oh, the answers! To the people walking by office today hearing me cackle to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks, I apologize for disrupting your day. The girls’ answers about being guys were mostly about not having to shower or put on make-up or do their hair. The guys were a little more creative…..
 
If I were a girl I would:
  •  probably just sit around and watch depressing movies all day like girls do. I’ve never really understood why they do that.
  •  do my hair. I could put on some make-up. I think I would try and go tanning. I’ve never went tanning before.
  • try to get free stuff from guys, because men will do anything for a pretty girl!
  • not do that, because it would be really weird.
  •  find out what gives girls their magical powers!
  •  name myself Destiny. (This dude must have previously put some thought into this!)
  •  dot my i’s with little hearts and not be judged for it.
  • learn how to make a sandwich. (There were actually a lot of sandwich jokes!)
  •  figure out the correct answer to “Does this outfit make me look fat?”
  • figure out how chicks are always right. 
I hope you got a kick out of these like I did! Oh, college freshmen!