As many of you know, I teach ESL. This means that my classroom is diverse; they're from all parts of the world, and I help them improve their English before and/or as they take college courses. My primary focus is writing. I help them go from paragraph writing to essay writing.
Well, today I showed them a sample classification paragraph. I wanted them to see an example of classifying a single idea into categories or subgroups. More importantly, though, I wanted them to identify the topic sentence, major and minor supporting details, and the concluding sentence. I asked questions about unity----whether the sentences all point to the same idea or not--- and coherence---- the way the sentences are organized. It's just a fun paragraph! It's about rock music!
This wasn't the first paragraph I showed them. I had shown them two others previous, and they answer all my questions just fine. For some reason, though, they were having trouble with this one.
Then, I realized the problem. I hadn't explained any of the vocabulary. "Do you think this paragraph has some tricky words?" I asked. They all nodded and said, "yes!"
"Well," I said, "which words do you feel like you need help with?"
Silvia, a girl from Mexico blurted, "snare!" I smiled and told them that I am a drummer, so I can explain that one with total confidence. In simple terms, I described the lay out of a basic drum set: snare, bass, toms, cymbals.
"The snare is the one in the middle and is played the most." I made the sound of a drum roll, and heads bobbed in understanding, and a chorus of "ooooh!" went around the room.
I demonstrated the sound of the bass---- "BOOM! BOOM!"--- while kicking my foot. I did a quick run around the imaginary set--- "Bong! Bong! Bong! Bong!" in different pitches and explained that these are called toms. Then, "CRASH!"
I asked, "Can anyone guess what that last one is called?" I heard a Vietnamese boy whisper something, so I asked him to be confident and speak up.
"Cymbal?" he asked. I gave him a thumbs up.
My drumming hasn't been as consistent as it was over the summer. Now that the semester has started, lesson planning, teaching, grading and conferencing with students is my number one priority. It has to be. It's my job. But I still have a drummer heart. I will forever remember this experience in the classroom. Next time I share this sample paragraph, I'm going to bring in my drum set!... maybe.