Today I was a 5th grade teacher at Robeson Elementary in Champaign again. This was the second day of a two-day assignment substituting for my mother-in-law. I have worked for her for such a long time now that she doesn’t even need to leave plans for me (although she does, thankfully). He students have also known me for an incredibly long time. In fact, I have been subbing for the teachers who have been teaching these students for as long as I have been subbing. (If that leaves you confused, I’ve been teaching these boys and girls since they were in 3rd grade, and I have taught them regularly because their teachers request me a lot.)
Anyway, the long and short of all that is that my students have been around me so often that they should be more than used to me by now. Which means that when I teach 5th graders at Robeson, I have a lot more freedom with the lesson plans than I do in a class I’ve never been to before. This is especially true when it comes to teaching social studies in this particular class. Because of the close relationship we have, my mother-in-law and I talk about what is going on in the class, and then she lets me improvise. I’ve gotta say, it is a lot of fun.
Today I taught a lesson on propaganda, especially in the form of WWI and WWII posters. We talked about what propaganda is, the elements in the vintage posters, and whether or not they were effective. The students were incredibly engaged in the entire lesson, and enjoyed being able to share their observations. After looking through the vintage posters, I asked them if they could think of any modern examples of propaganda that they have seen, especially within the school. They identified, among other things, a poster encouraging environmentally-friendly practices that my wife designed. I wrapped up the lesson by first showing them a picture of a painting/mural that is in the hallway at Robeson:
I asked the class to decide if this was an example of propaganda and to explain why. They agreed that it was, and identified the elements that seemed to try to convince the audience (students, teachers, and parents), that Robeson is a safe, fun, interesting place that encourages learning and creativity. After they did all that, I unveiled their next project: create a propaganda poster of their own to support a subject of their choice. I am really looking forward to seeing what they will produce. As they were working on ideas and sketches, I saw posters about Sponge-Bob Squarepants, Japan, abused animals, buying monkeys, and the dangers of eating fast food. I am sure that some students will turn in mediocre work (there is always someone in the class who tries to skate by doing the bare minimum), but many others will do the very best they can.
And I told them that I would be back several times this month and part of their grade will depend on whether or not they can convince me. Dang, I love being able to improvise and develop my own lesson plans!