Friday, May 6, 2011


The South African school calendar was a bit bizarre in April. There were so many public holidays that fell outside the official school break that we ended up with only 11 school days required by the department. Two of those days fell randomly into a week chock full of holidays. No one at Moshaweng particularly wanted to come back to work for those days, especially considering the great distances many faculty members must travel to see their families. The department allowed us to skip these days, so long as we provided a recovery plan.

The recovery plan was implemented this week. It brings me back to the very beginning of the school year, when all was chaos and confusion. Educators must make up for 14 lost hours, so we've added an hour to every school day (in addition to Saturday classes). This extra hour is divided into two periods and classes are allotted to educators via the "recovery timetable". This timetable tends to be hastily scrawled during the school day, and handed to educators at the last possible moment. It is chock full of impossible conflicts. For example, I've taught one grade 11 class several extra times and never seen the other. The result is obvious. One class is light-years ahead, and the other is lagging far behind.

Today, just as the bell rang, I was passed a timetable and saw I was supposed to be in a grade 10 class. They've been particularly (and miraculously) studious of late and I was out of new material for the week. What to do? What to do?

Play Hangman, of course.

I explained the game using "slope" and "graph" as examples. I was happily surprised to note how many learners really got into it. They were focused on the game, payed close attention and caught on quickly. I really enjoyed seeing their enthusiasm, especially from learners whose poor math skills often leave them itching to escape from my regular class. Writing on the board was also a great opportunity for the class hams to use their time in the spotlight constructively. While the game may seem a bit juvenile for a grade 10 class, it encouraged individual thinking and participation in ways that are not common in typical South African classrooms. Additionally, everyone benefitted from the extra English practice. Best of all, both of my grade 10 classes are still on the same page.

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