7/13 and I’m thinking about KWL.


This is day four of summer school for me and my 11 students this morning are busily working independently or following along on my journey to outline US History Semester 1 Unit 3 on the board.


Summer school is always a challenge but this year it has taken me two days to settle in and figure out how to best help students. I am covering for Sam, our new History teacher at Creekside who just killed it in his first year. He had a trip planned for this week so I said I would cover his summer school History class.  It is crunch time here at Altimira summer school as we have 4 days left which means students should be done with at least 5 credits of independent History work by next Tuesday.


If you’re not fluent in Eduspeak, what this means is that students are assigned two 5 credit units, on the independent study platform Fuel Ed, at the beginning of the summer then they spend three hours per day reading, taking notes and testing in their various subjects. All subjects are being taught this way except English where superstar teacher Veronica Gray insisted on doing direct instruction which is great because I can pick her brain while preparing for my Fall creative writing class.


Independent study is great for some but trying to fit everyone into the same educational box is shortsighted. The reality of this class is 4 of my 11 students are second language learners, 3 have special learning needs and most would rather be almost anywhere other than here.


But Sam has trained them well and they have learned that we are here to help in whatever way we can. This is where the KWL comes in. Eduspeak loves acronyms, KWL means Know, Want to Know, and Learned, and it is how I’ve taught forever. I like it because it starts with what students know. This gives a baseline and when combined with the W (in this class it is either US or World History) it gives me a place to start filling in the educational holes.


I put timelines on the board, answer individual questions and go through a sample unit in US History (Unit 3 is one which 5 students are currently working on so that’s what I choose). We discuss The New Republic, Judiciary Act, Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton then the students head into the library with their notes whenever they feel ready to take the unit tests. Once they pass all unit tests they can either start a new subject or leave (guess which one they usually choose).


At 9:10 a student passes his final unit in World History, averaging 72%, he grabs his backpack, I congratulate him and the class gives him a round of applause as he walks out the door.


Now, the L part of KWL is the trickiest because much of education is focused on the destination and not the journey. Many students do not want to learn for the sake of learning but to check off the requirement (What can I do to get a D in your class?). Even before COVID the educational system was in trouble but now those cracks have grown even larger.


“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” This Zig Zigler quote is on the board in the classroom I am borrowing and it is right on.


Let’s start there with personal responsibility for learning. What will it take for students to care? They are growing up in an environment where Influencers travel around on yachts while working people struggle. Where the planet is in peril and leaders argue and are comedically not relatable (Really, Biden vs. Trump in 2024?!?). Where the little devices they are obsessed with can do incredible things but are being used for watching kitty videos.


And really, I don’t mean to shock you but if I can ask Seri any question and get an answer in seconds, is knowledge still important? I know the answer is yes but as educators, shouldn’t we be looking at how everyone carrying around a powerful supercomputer is changing the sociology of learning?


“Never memorize something you can look up” -Einstein


By days end, four students have finished their requirements and left summer school, one continues to spend the three hours of class time doing anything but his work. I exhaust all the tools in my teacher bag but my afternoon aid has a relationship with the student and she gets him to take a half page of notes, baby steps. We can lead them to water but we can’t make them drink.


By 2:20 we are wrapping up the day, How much was done, what are the goals for tomorrow and for the last 3 days of summer school. I’m a big goal guy but unfortunately this generation is not.


I remind them of the free drop-in tennis clinic Tuesday and Thursday from 5-7 on the SVHS courts. Tennis is on life support in the Valley so MK (girl’s coach) and I are doing whatever we can to increase interest.


The bell rings, the summer school day is done.








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