I’m trying to phonetically represent the theme from Jaws. You know, the whole approaching shark thing.

Da dum.

The dreaded 120 Seconds is coming!

It’s January, and time for my crew to publicly display their mad oral reading and public speaking skills.

Da dum, Da dum, Da dum.

“Has anyone ever peed their pants?”

“No, but I had one run out the door…’I’m going to be reading from…uh…’ and BAM, she was gone out the door. I sent somebody after her after about five minutes. I think that one came close.”

“What’s the record for likes and uhs?”

“120. We had to give her another chance the next day. She got it down to 11.”

“What if I read from Winnie the Pooh?”

“Did you really like it?”

(sheepish) “Yes.”

“”Well then, you read from Winnie the Pooh.”

“What if your friend is in the audience making you laugh?”

“One: Get rid of him as a friend. Two: He’d lose points on his, and you’d get to start over. Three: There is no third thing.”

“Can I really get into it? And like, wear a wizard’s hat and have a magic wand for reading Harry Potter?”

“That’d be beauty. Too bad you can’t go the whole nine yards and fly in here on a broom on the day of the show.”

“I’m gonna do that.”

Uh huh.

Here’s the post from last January that explains what the whole thing is about.

I have always hated “book reports.” (Wait, I told my wife I would try to stop using that word.) I didn’t like writing them (took all the fun out of the book), I didn’t like reading them back when I thought I had to assign them. I don’t like the summarize kind, the analyze kind, the combo kind, the form letter kind, or the “make a diorama” kind.  (Well, some of the dioramas I used to get WERE pretty cool; the Lego version of the murder in the graveyard in Tom Sawyerwas very detailed and boss, and I still have a shoebox/popcicle stick Tom Sawyer whitewashing scene from 1995, a matchstick Outsiders hide-out church from 1994, and Tom and Becky lost in a shoe-box cave, complete with bats. But still… If you do like book reports or feel the “need” to assign them , here are some way less boring ideas.)  I figure KBAR takes care of most of my “need” to make them read/respond to books outside of class, and I certainly don’t need more work to grade. But I do see a large value in having the kids share with each other what they are reading and enjoying. They always need new material to try out.

I have also always disliked “presentations.” Especially long ones. After 10-15 minutes of whatever riveting presentations are being performed, the rest of the class (including yours truly) is fading and drifting. Then, they drag out over days, and interrupt the flow of everything else in the class, and while there can be significant learning during the prep for the presentation, there usually isn’t a whole lot of learning going on during the performances. Sorry, maybe I’m just a crab. But I do see the value in them rehearsing and getting up there and speaking in public.

Also;  the kids these days aren’t very good at reading aloud, and they hate getting up and making speeches. And both are skills they need to have, and the almighty standards include a public speaking element.

So. I wanted to take into account our (my) short attention spans and their need to share and find out about new books, and try to combine torturing them with some badly needed skills practice. Et voila!

120 Seconds.  Here’s the handout. Read it and come back. Fine. I see how it is. Teachers are worse than the kids about reading the directions.

I start with the carrot:

“How many of you like to do book reports?”

No hands. Well, there is sometimes one of those OCD readers — the ones who love to rack up Accelerated Reader points and churn out book reports — but they’re usually too busy reading surreptitiously to even hear me.

“Good. I don’t like reading them either.”

Then I bust the stick on them. Not literally. Not too much anyway.

120 Seconds. Half of it telling us about a great book they’ve read (are reading) — brief plot summary, why it’s cool, background of the excerpt, etc. Half of it reading a groovy passage from it. We have judges (3 + me and I average the scores), we have an uh counter (who also counts unnecessary likes, as in “he was, like, 17…”), and we have a timer.

2 minutes. That’s it. No time for padding. No time to hem and haw. No time for the crowd to get restless. You better be rehearsed, because you’re being judged. And if it’s a nightmare, it’s over in 120 seconds.

(Click to Enlarge.)

They get a week to prepare. I get a lot of questions about the level of difficulty.

“What would Harry Potter be? The Hobbit?”

“It would depend on the particular passage, pick one and show it to me before Tuesday. FYI,Hatchet is a two,Twilight is mostly a three I think – show me the passage, and Harry Potter and The Hobbit are mostly fours.  And unless you’re willing to read enough Romeo and Juliet to be able to explain your excerpt to us, you won’t be able to get the six that’s worth.”

(Waitaminute! Harry Potter and the Hobbit. Hmmmmmm. Sounds like Hollywood gold.)

And they ask a lot about the uh/umm/like counting. Sometimes even as they ask their questions, I just hold up a hand and start ticking off each time they say like or uh/umm. They get all flustered, and then they say it even more. It’s a real eye-opener for some of them.

More, including examples, to follow.