Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Days 6 and 7---Do the Herky-Jerky!

I apologize for missing Day 6 of the school year.  It took a while to decompress the day.  So much so that it's rolled into Day 7.

I used an excerpt from Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air in class today.  The section details the author's experiences on Everest while crossing the Khumbu Icefall.  Specifically, he writes of his discomfort crossing the ladders that are used to bridge the spaces between crevasses in the ice field.  My students struggled with the vocabulary in the excerpt--specifically, herky-jerky.  Of course, they were amused by the phrase, but they really didn't understand its meaning.  Well...one of my students did--a shy young man whose questions are almost always good.  I asked for volunteers to attempt to demonstrate the meaning of herky-jerky.  He was the only volunteer--which takes a lot of courage.  This wasn't just a raise you hand and answer a question.  This was a full-blown-get-up-and-act-it-out volunteer effort.  It was perfect!  His steps were full of adrenaline shake and wobbliness as well as perfectly timed angular jerks of the arms.  It's moments like this that I love to teach.  ...the shy kid stands up and shows the class what it's all about!  The class applauded!  He smiled and returned to his seat.

I prepped my students in the first week of school with the fact that I'm a huge proponent of arts integration--specifically, theatre and movement activities to aid comprehension.  For me, practicing integration strategies with arts techniques brings more authenticity to the activity--especially vocabulary, where most can got to the online resource and simply copy and paste the definition into any document and submit it.  Students have to live it!  We certainly can't trek to Nepal and the Himalaya to practice our herky-jerky dance (there's oxygen to consider-and I don't think it's in the school budget even if we can get sponsors), but we can act it out and get it into our muscles and bones!  Activities in class where the teacher encourages students to get up and act out...Hmmm...scary!  Actually, acting is part of the fun for me!  It's great to see what the kids bring with them to the class in terms of background experiences.  With our reading not-a-program-program, we encourage the influence of schema.  It's one of the biggest contributors to a student's understanding of text.  As educators, we can either embrace our students' schema, or ignore it.  Ignoring a child's background is a mistake!  Own it!  Embrace it!  Encourage it's use.  (Appropriate use...hehehe)

Cheers and brilliant week to you---Brien

Jon Krakauer Bio (Just in case you're interested)


  1. I've also (attempted to) integrate arts integration into science. I confess I failed to discover any artistic medium other than drawing for students to reinforce concepts. Maybe music? I played the Elements Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmwlzwGMMwc) last year, but didn't know if eight graders would be up to either learning it, or adapting it to something other than The Pirates of Penzance. I've enjoyed your blog and hope you can either here (or during our ample hours of luxury at work) can offer suggestions.

  2. Let me do some thinking about it. When we have time, let me know some of your standards. I know that when I think about applying arts to science, I tend to think along the lines of movement activities to demonstrate concepts. Quick example: Explain photosynthesis through movement. Students would create a movement to represent the sun's energy traveling towards earth. Something on earth has to receive that energy---another movement. Perhaps even moving thru the atmospheric levels(?)...One outcome is that you want them to understand the process, but you are asking them to commit it to their bodies--thus creating an authentic connection.

    All that being said, there are building blocks that lead students to the point where they can achieve this comfortably and successfully as well provide good times for you as a director.

  3. I really agree with what you're saying. Having a simulation, regardless of how realistic, really helps the learning process. I'm thinking of our training where we practice attacks and giving first aid to the injured

    Keep up the great blogging!