Tuesday, November 29, 2005

This Is NOT a Blog About Grading

I just need a little break from thinking and writing and talking about our grading system, so instead I'll write about an activity my classes did this week that combined the blog and constructivism. I asked half of my class to post discussion questions regarding a short story by Edgar Allan Poe; I specified that they needed to read the other questions before posting theirs to avoid repeating others' questions. After they posted their questions, I made copies of the questions for everyone in the class. I had all students read through the entire list of questions and highlight the ones that intrigued them the most; they then spent three minutes brainstorming/writing on each of the questions they liked. After they finished brainstorming, I asked them to share any conclusions or questions that came to mind as they did this activity, and their comments were outstanding. Usually my students are somewhat shy to talk about "The Fall of the House of Usher" because it's such a challenging text, but they seemed genuinely interested in attacking each other's questions. I think part of the interest came from the fact that I included their names by the questions they posed. This way, when students shared their responses, they could say, "I chose Caitlin's question because..." I think the activity also validated the importance of asking questions instead of passively accepting confusion. It's also rewarding to see your own name on something that the teacher handed out and to know that every student in the class is thinking about your question. I'm going to do the same activity for "The Minister's Black Veil" so that the other half of the class has a chance to ask questions as well. It's nice to have my students do the hard work instead of just watching me do it.


Blogger DOUGW said...

The most significant plus to printing out mandatory blog posts is the completeness of the response. Everyone shares, because everyone is required on penalty of missing precious points to share. Caitlin doesn't talk a lot in class under normal circumstances, but she's commented extensively on the last few blogs.

This is reqired respone gone well. It also goes badly, when some people rely completely on what has been said before. This has been addressed with the 'no old question' rule. I imagine one of the great struggles of teaching is the lull in interest and levering dry data out of unwilling participants. The blogs help.

Once again, more class discussion!
Maybe when we have more time next semester.

7:03 PM  
Blogger DOUGW said...

Sorry about my grammer- I do recognize my mistakes.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Very constructivist - and apparently very effective. I think the more opportunities we have to show students that we do truly value their thinking, the more they will rise to the challenge and contribute good thinking.

One variation to consider now that you're going to have a projector in your room. You can project their questions and/or their responses for further discussion, instead of copying them off. I think at times copying them to paper makes sense, but other times you might be able to do this more "spur of the moment" using the projector when you don't have the time to make copies.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Ashley M said...

I really enjoyed this activity because it has required everyone in the class to participate. Like Doug said, some people really don't speak up in class, and it is really nice to hear what was going through their minds as they were reading the text. Instead of having you pose the questions to us, our classmates did. I was pretty amazed with their thoughts because it was a different perspective on a story we were all required to read. I hadn't event thought of half of their questions about "The Fall of the House of Usher," and it made me think about the story more. Last night I even reread it again, and now I have some more insights into Poe's writing that I hadn't had before.

4:26 PM  
Blogger annes said...

Bravo Kakos for always being on the edge of new ideas. This truly sounds like a great idea and I am sure I will borrow it for my own class. Thanks for sharing!

9:02 PM  
Blogger danak said...

This discussion was so much fun and it brought many other ideas to the table, which was good because I didn't quite understand the story before we discussed it. I also agree that part of the interest came from including the names. We are such a fiery group that debating and analyzing each other's responces makes every class discussion all the more fun.

5:19 PM  
Blogger shamitap said...

This was a lot of fun! I could tell what was going on in a lot of these people's minds when they wrote the question...

You should definitely do a comparison/contrast thing between House of Usher II and Fall of the House of Usher next year. People would really enjoy that! That is one of my favorite passages in The Martian Chronicles!!

3:43 PM  

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