My school works on a block schedule. Four periods with each class meeting every other day. Classes are 90 minutes long. This is new this year and I have mixed feelings about it. The population of our school is very diverse in their ethnicity, but are united in their economic status. Our percentage of students who qualify for free lunch is in the high nineties. We have a great deal of absenteeism and little parental involvement. Homework is seldom completed.
When it was announced that we would be switching to the new schedule, I thought it might be a good thing, that it would give my students a bigger block of time to work on a video shoot. When we had 45 minute periods, it sometimes seemed like a period was over just when we got rolling.
Instead, the block schedule has been difficult for me. Students need to bring costumes and props from home to do video shoots in school. It seems like this is more difficult with the every other day schedule. In addition, whenever a student is absent for one block, it is the equivalent of two days of standard class time. This adds up fast.
So, today is the first day in the new term for my day 2 students.
This screenwriting class is bigger, with more students working on the web-based curriculum. Attendance is low today though. I had a discussion with a student about a reading - the difference between "characterization" and "true character." Another student and I had a talk about 3-act structure in film, specifically exposition. We talked the first 5 pages of the script and how to make every scene count; how to write each scene so that it accomplishes several different things. I also organized each students expectations for the term and assigned them the specific units they were expected to accomplish.
This is a great video class. I have a creative and quirky group of kids who have done more work than any other group this year. Today, we watched a video blog on Izzyvideo.com about depth of field video techniques to achieve it. We took the camera out to the hallway and practiced using manual focus and a density filter to achieve a more artistic look. Then we planned had a quick group discussion about the footage we wanted to shoot and went outside to shoot it. We used the technique we learned today to shoot the footage. Lastly, we came inside to upload the video and even had time to do a little editing. This class is a dream. As you can see, the amount of work accomplished is far beyond the other video classes.
This class is very difficult. The students mostly belong to a group of friends and they always seem to be in social conflict. These guys have completed very little. They refuse to do any kind of preparation work, they mostly want to jump right to the fun stuff. Consequently, the things they manage to produce are not very successful.
Today, they put together some footage with some music that one of them had composed in the sound studio to create a video of sorts. They made short work of the project and then wanted to surf the net. Instead, I directed them to a sight that teaches video concepts with puzzles, blogs, and articles. I assigned them a unit on composition. One student did the assignment, one student pretended to the assignment, one student skipped to the assessment and claimed he know all the answers already, and another student attempted to go to sleep. These guys are so tough.
Sometimes I feel like it is my fault, that I don't provide engaging enough curriculum for them. Other times, I look at a class like the video #1 today, and I know that it is not entirely my fault. I do know that it is my responsibility to offer curriculum that will engage my students, if they refuse to participate, it is not necessarily my fault.