Once the students had already been introduced to distance-time graphs and done some examples from the textbook, I made my own story word problem about a student’s nightmarish trip to school one day. I incorporated many of the other students, usually referring to them by nicknames that they had earned throughout the year. I used the story to reaffirm the reasons for the students’ nicknames and used the storyline to expose the students to some difficult vocabulary. For example, one day, a female student cut her hand and asked to go to the nurse’s office. On her way out the door, she had trouble opening the door while holding her other bleeding hand. Instead of helping her, a male student named Lee Hun laughed and pointed at her instead of helping her. In doing so, he had earned himself the ironic nickname Dr. Chivalry. In the story, he treated the girl on her way to school with similar discourtesies. Another student, Big Cheese, who was nicknamed for her penchant for telling cheesy jokes, impeded the student’s journey to school with a combination of bad jokes and big chunks of cheese.
While we were going through the math problem, I told them the back stories for the nicknames. At the same time, I elicited information from the students, and had them record the relevant data in a chart on the board as they had learned to do in previous assignments. The lesson also included the “folding in” of practice on conversion of units – some within the metric system, some between imperial units and the metric system, and other entirely fictitious units to show them that the rules for conversion of units hold regardless of the system of units employed.
The reasons I’m proud of this lesson are that the students found it very entertaining, that it reinforces the concepts we had just learned, and that it is a cross-curricular exercise involving English, math, and science. Furthermore, it reinforces concepts learned in previous units. To me, giving students the opportunity to enjoy themselves and to feel a sense of accomplishment at being able to apply their existing knowledge to a novel situation are what teaching is all about.
As you can see below, and as noted by Dr. Thompson’s letter of reference, I adapted this story to include people in my Content Area Literacy class for my ‘close reading’ demonstration this past summer.