This one goes under the category of "you win some".
Yesterday was the first day of Black History Month, and while I could have chosen to not mark the day, or to wait until I had a better, more complete plan to teach, I didn't. Instead, I pulled together a powerpoint in about 40 minutes that did what I needed it to do for my students and me. I wanted to give some context to this group of kids, who for the most part did not have background information on this topic. In addition, I wanted to maintain a social justice focus, and not just talk uncritically about a few famous African-Americans. And, to make it more challenging, I had to make it comprehensible to the wide range of English abilities in my class without making it overly simplistic.
The slideshow turned out to be very effective and interactive. I had students each read a slide, so they all participated - and my student who speaks the least amount of English was the power point clicker. We analyzed some paintings by African-American artists as well as relevant images by using the now familiar to my students "What do you notice? What do you wonder" visual thinking strategy.
My students were totally into it. Maybe it was my energy; maybe they were just interested. Maybe they had all gotten enough sleep the night before and breakfast that morning. Whatever it was, I was able to sustain their engaged attention for about 45 minutes. They asked interested questions, they offered information, they helped each other understand it all.
Who knows why, but it all coalesced into a great lesson. Some days, I put hours into a lesson and it just doesn't click. And there are days where I rush to prepare, and magic happens in the classroom. Yesterday was one of those priceless days.
In case you have ELL students and feel it might be useful, here is the slideshow (I hope it can be easily opened!)