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Teacher Magic

November 6, 2010

Teacher musings:
This week I had my writing students do a quick activity that was designed to help them see the different parts of their definition essays and figure out ways to re-organize these parts to better meet their writing purpose. I had then write down all the different parts of the paper on index cards. For example, one index card might say “I quoted the dictionary” and another one might say “I shared a short anecdote about my dad.” Then, the put these index cards on their desk in the order they were currently in (in their first draft) and then they mixed them up. For some students this wasn’t very exciting, and it was mostly an exercise in making sure to start a new paragraph when they, as writers, introduced a new idea. However, for some of my students it was really exciting, and several discovered a new way to organize their paper once they had this view of it. One student, in particular, moved her cards dubiously, looked over them and then shouted “Oh my God Ms. Levey! This totally worked! It’s like magic!” That brought a big smile to my face. In some ways it is like magic when you get a new view or a new way of looking at something, and suddenly everything seems to click. I feel the same way when I am hit with inspiration in the shower, or when I read something for the third time in five years, but suddenly I get it. Now, this same student turned in a paper that is, at best, mediocre, and I certainly haven’t revolutionized the teaching of writing – this index card thing is a common strategy. However, it was an exciting moment because the student was seeing things in a new way, and seeing a larger purpose in their writing. In some ways, as focused as I am on basic skills, this moment is really what I think teaching is all about.

Yummy Stuff:
Sometimes the most basic stuff makes the best food – almost as if by magic! Case in point – pesto. Now, my Italian grandmother finds it sacrilegious that we make pesto without cheese. However, we enjoy it quite a bit, and when you make pesto from basil grown in your backyard – well, that just can’t be beat!

Pesto (vegan and pine nut free for the G-man! – adapted from “Vegan Plant” by Robin Robertson)
Ingredients:
3 peeled garlic cloves
1/3 cup almonds (or pine nuts if you are not allergic like the G-man)
2 cups of loosely packed basil leaves, washed and dried
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Finely grind the garlic and almonds in the food processor.
2. Add the basil and process until minced. This may take a few batches depending on whether or not you have a small food processor like us.
3. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil slowly until the pesto turns into a paste.

Depending on how you are using it, you may add more oil when you heat up the pesto for pasta, or before you spread it on a pizza. This can be frozen well – we usually make a big batch at the end of summer that lasts us through the winter.

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2 Comments
  1. >It's so exciting when students see something in a new way–makes teaching worth it! Have you finished "Write Beside Them" yet? I finally did & thought it was fantastic.

  2. >"Write Beside Them" has become my bible this year. I love both the ideas in it and the way the author explains things so clearly! I just started teaching this writing class and I'm trying to move it more in that direction, although I work with two other teachers who haven't read the book yet.

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