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Making Connections

Like all reading teachers across the state, I am being challenged to prepare for a test that has new components.  One thing that will be new for students will be an audio portion of text that they will have to listen to. They will not have text to follow along with but will be required to answer questions related to what is being read aloud.

To help my students, I have built listening activities into my weekly lessons.  A great resource that another teacher initially found was NPR.  She and I have begun printing scripts from interviews that involve topics our students are interested in and having students write short-response answers as they listen.

I stumbled across another section of NPR’s website that I had to share with you!

If you are a teacher, I strongly encourage you to visit the link for Teenage Diaries Revisited.

In 1996, NPR gave out audio recorders to various teenagers who then turned around and documented part of their lives.  The stories they tell are heartbreaking and so easy for today’s teens to relate to.

As I listened to Frankie’s Diary, I began crafting questions for my students to answer as they listened.  We have been working on citing evidence, so this was a great assignment to reinforce newly-acquired skills.

Frankie was a young man, seventeen at the time he recorded his story, who was living in Alabama.  He told about how he didn’t fit in until he joined the football team…about he he wore Levis to school but Wranglers at home…just so he wouldn’t be made fun of.  He talked about the car his father bought him.

Then, he told the story of how his father was nabbed by the FBI for a sixteen-year-old crime he was falsely convicted of.

Folks, Part 1 was sixteen minutes long.

You would have thought it was fewer than five, the way my students sat in rapt attention.

They laughed at parts, and they swayed to the music that played.

Then, things turned serious.

You should have seen my kids writing afterward.  You could have heard a pin drop in what is usually a loud classroom.



I brought their responses home to grade and Oh.  My.  Gosh.

Here is what the assignment looked like on my Smartboard…just so you’ll see the questions I asked…

The stories my students told in response to question number one absolutely broke my heart.

I pride myself on knowing my students well.

Um, yeah.

I learned more about them with this one question than nine weeks of instructional time.

I wish I could give you details, but I don’t want to get in trouble for sharing things I’m not supposed to.

Just trust me.  The stories you hear on TV about what kids are going through…they are not exaggerations.

Students who NEVER participate willingly in classroom discussions shared very personal things.

Question number two allowed me glimpses into the empathy my young charges have for others.

You know that I’ve had a difficult time this year with my attitude and stress level.

Reading my students’ responses brought a joy to my heart and reminded me how privileged I am to impact young minds.

One Response

  1. I love hear about lessons that “click” with your students. I miss those moments the most.

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