We started reading Tom Sawyer today. This time, I’m going to try to read A LOT more of it in class. They need to hear the cadence and the twang, and the fun Mark Twain has with language. And I get to “talk southern.”

(Aside: My dad grew up in Illinois, and when he got mad at me and my brothers back in the day, his midwest twang would come out. To us California kids, it sounded like “talkin’ southern.” When the family went to Virginia during the summer between 6th and 7th grade, I found out what talking southern REALLY sounded like. I couldn’t understand a word anybody was saying.)

Not to mention the explanations and translations and such that are needed in the early going of Tom Sawyer. Have you noticed that the book gets much easier to read and follow as it goes along?  It’s like MT gets more into telling the story, and the need for social commentary takes a back seat. Dunno. I guess if I were still an undergrad, I could milk a term paper out of the idea. My roommate back in those days wrote one called, “The Ending of Huck Finn: Boredom as a Literary Device.” The prof thought it was so good he accused my buddy of plagiarizing it.  The charge didn’t stick. I watched him write the paper, and there was no internet in those days.

That means the Tom Sawyer Moodle started today. I have blogged about this in previous years–in fact, the longest post this blog has ever seen was about the Tom Sawyer Moodle–so you can follow the links if you need memory refreshing, are new here, or just want to relive the first time you read them (hahahaha). But what this long-winded intro is leading up to is that tonight, as I checked in on the wiki and forums and such, I was reminded again of one of my Basics of Teaching.

Wait… BoTs… I just made that up!

Anyway, the BoTs are a little different than mere tips. There is some overlap–some tips are BoTs– but without the BoTs firmly in place, no amount of tips is going to save you.

If I were to rate the BoTs in order, the one the TS Moodle exemplifies would probably be #2:

Make the kids do the work.”

Just go over there and look. Last night’s reading was just ch1, and there’s already a wiki page for ch2 that has all the details. Any kid that’s struggling to understand I can send to the wiki to check out the summaries and the answers to the study questions and everything. To paraphrase the aliens in Monsters on Maple Street, “All I need do is sit back and watch.”

Most of my class consists of asking lots of questions and posing lots of problems, and then giving hints while they work on it. THEY work on it. They read it first, then I take questions. Remember: You already did 7th grade. It’s their turn now.

BoT #1?  Wednesday.

No Shmarty, Wednesday is not a Basic of Teaching. Wednesday is when I’ll be back to talk about it.

Middle schoolers… sheesh.