Semi-Sweet Sixteen

I want to believe that I’ve always been a bit of an inquiry style teacher. I don’t really like to give out knowledge, but try to help guide my students to knowledge by asking them questions and trying to get them to ask each other questions. Whenever I teach a new concept, it is tough for me not to endorse it with my bias. This is something I need to curb.

We were talking about personal responses yesterday. I think personal responses are great because it better demonstrates the student’s voice and understanding of a text. One of the reasons I decided to pursue the humanities is because there isn’t just “the answer.” I enjoy working through something and figuring out what is best for me to understand what is presented before me. I asked different probing questions in yesterday’s lesson about the use of journals as personal response. Some students were riding the lesson with me while others had that look of huh. I kept encouraging them to voice what it was that seemed confusing or what possible merits personal response had. There were a few bites, but quite often some students have an uncomfortable time asking questions in front of their peers. Some of the struggles became evident when it came to practice a journal.

Some students powered through and wanted more time to shape their responses while others seemed to count the seconds till time was up. As a teacher I do feel compelled to reach everyone and help them figure out what’s going on. However, I also need students to voice some of the issues impeding their learning. “I don’t get it.” is not too helpful. I do ask questions to try to get a clearer picture, but some are unwilling to divulge any info. We’re starting Romeo & Juliet in the next class, and I’m hoping that if they aren’t willing to ask out loud, they will engage with “backchannel” chatter.

I’ve never really done this before, and I know some students will probably just text their lives away, but I am going to allow them to use their devices while we are doing our Shakespeare unit. My hope is that some will send me questions via Twitter or google chat, or maybe they can surf for vocab or context. If it is disastrous, I will reexamine it, but I’ve been encouraged lately because some students, who missed a class or needed clarification have been sending me tweets for info. I would rarely get emails from students in the past, and even if I did they were very brief anyway. I told my students yesterday that their voice is important, and that only by using their voice can they really shape their understanding. Well, if they don’t want to use their physical voice, I hope that they will allow their digital voice to ring clear.


2 thoughts on “Semi-Sweet Sixteen

  1. Well done Mr Saysana! I am sure the kids will be more engaged. If students are absent from class for any reason (illness, late counsellor, music), I have recently started to take a pic of the IWB,board or activity with my smartphone and email them the photo through your intranet (school email and Virtual classroom). This photo gives them a perspective of what we learnt in class and more importantly an opportunity to catch up. Like you, I love to experiment and adapt. IMHO this is how humans learn and progress. So well done to you for giving it a go! Make a mistake today I say. A great way to learn.

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