Game On!

Posted: September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about the great conversation I had with my class yesterday. It was the kind of conversation we don’t usually have until a lot later in the year. I’ve been thinking about why it went so well.

First let me tell you what my definition of “going well” is. In 5th grade I think a good conversation about a book means a number of thing:

  • Many people (everyone) participate.
  • Solid information from the story is shared.
  • People are not just summarizing, but collecting appropriate examples for the topic.
  • There is back and forth among students.
  • New ideas emerge.

That may sound like a lot for 5th graders, who incase you don’t recall, are mostly 10. But,I have found that is exactly what they are capable of: a lot.

So, here are some of the reasons I think this, our first real discussion about our first book of the year, went so well:

  • We were sitting in our circle arrangement (see my post about it here and here) and I was just part of the circle. Everyone was facing each other and conversation was naturally flowing.
  • I adjusted the plan of what to talk about when a student brought up an idea that clearly got many students’ attention. I told the students we could discuss this idea further once we finished a few housekeeping review items and that my goal was to learn and improve our ability to discuss what we read. I said that often it would not matter what in particular we discussed, so I was open to new topics.
  • I tried to keep things somewhat free-flowing and insist on some being-called-on-taking-turns.
  • At a few different times I said I needed to hear from anyone I hadn’t heard from soon. Students responded appropriately and raised hands ready to join in.
  • And, finally we had already had our “5E Day” (Identity Day-read about it here) project and started on the path to a really great class tone.

I am going to have to up my game if my students are going to be leaping into this kind of discussion in September.

I’m in.

  1. Maggie says:

    Your post is a great example of working through the tension between structure, solid foundation work and flexible, free-flowing conversation.
    Your identity project and classroom design were all intentional and driving you towards what you hoped would be defined positive outcomes (you knew what you wanted that outcome to be).
    The great conversation was less defined in your mind (and the minds of your students) when you all set forth on it. But you were flexible in your approach when you saw the spark sent through the room from a student’s idea. Even your students were flexible… those who might have been inclined towards a more passive posture moved towards a more active one with your cue to do so.
    The free-flowing conversation couldn’t have happened if the foundation and identity work and structures weren’t there… yet those structures couldn’t be so absolute and defining that they create a small box eliminating the positive flow your class found in their dialogue. That’s the tension I’m talking about… establishing a climate of creative flexibility with structure to support it is a delicate balance.
    You managed to wrestle the tension well… and the result is an atmosphere in which your students feel safe to be open to new ideas and ways of learning from you, each other and even themselves.
    Now my question: once the environment has been so positively inoculated against narrowly-defined learning, is there a risk of it wearing off? Are booster shot experiences essential for you and the class? Or is this established now as the bedrock operating system going forward? What do you think?

    • mseiteljorg says:

      I agree that there is always that tension between the free-flowing and the structure. It’s sometimes a hard place to manage, in a lot of ways.

      To your question, I think we will need some booster shots as you suggest. I think some of the other things I have planned will act as boosters. And, I hope with appropriate reinforcement it becomes our bedrock operating system.

      My hope is that some of our work on individual interests (I plan to start student edublogs next week) will serve to maintain the balance between our stated curriculum and an individually driven one. I would like the student blogs to be an extension of our identity day project. I think it will give all the students’ interests a continued place in our day. We’ll see.

      • Maggie says:

        Ms. E:
        Be sure to tell us how the student edublogs launch and make their way… and especially how you plan to assess student contributions (and how they will assess themselves)… that’s FASCINATING work you are doing. Brava!!

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