Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Day in a College Classroom

Today in the Writing in Education course I teach students had to share their ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc. about a journal article.  The article discusses ways to validate students lived realities in schools.  The article reminds the readers that many students' lives do not mirror their teachers' lives.  When a student writes, draws, or talks about a subject that isn't part of the teacher's lived reality there a student may be faced with silence.  Silence, not to be cruel, but because the teacher is not sure or prepared on a way to respond.  When my students have read this article in the past, they are always horrified that the teacher doesn't acknowledge a child's response.  I know that each student in my class would meet the student's response with silence since he or she would not know how to respond.  This article has always produced rich discussion but I wanted them to get more out of it.  

Then last semester I asked them to express their thoughts, impressions, connections in any form they wish.  I do give them a list of possible ways but encourage them to do the "expression" in any way they wish.  We spent the whole class sharing what they did.  Every student did the activity and everyone willingly shared.  And after every presentation there was applause.  There were even those times during the sharing that you saw heads nods or comments of agreements.

Some of their expressions were in:

Original Art
A comparison with The Great Gabsy and The Hunger Games
A Poster
A letter to the author
A letter to a school librarian requesting this journal article be shared with all teachers
A paper about how this article was nothing like her life and yet, it was ok to be different but there should be understanding
A paper about a girl that related to the broken relationships in the article
A poem from the teacher and from the child met with silence
A prediction before reading - a reflection during reading - an analysis after reading
Pictures draw on a legal size envelope during the reading of the article
A Mobile
A book jacket
A song to the tune "House of the Rising Sun" sung to us as he was playing guitar

Afterwards we discussed how their learning was deeper and richer.  We talked about how some of the ways they expressed themselves were not expected.  One woman shook visibly when she read her poem and her personality usually is very self-assured.  The guy that sung was the last to volunteer and is always the quietest participant in the class.  And yet after he sang the applause was loud and someone asked if he would sing it again so they could record it.   He quietly began his song again.

And then I reminded them one day they would teach and they MUST look for ways to make the learning richer, deeper, more engaging.  And of course, when a student says, writes, draws, etc. something that is not part of their lived realities do not meet him or her with silence.


  1. What a marvelous lesson to teach, and in such an authentic way. Teaching is performance art, I believe - and part of that is knowing how to respond to one's audience...the students. They look to us to learn how to respond - your students are lucky to have you point them in this direction even before they have students of their own. You are preparing them well!

  2. Wow, I love that you opened it up and encouraged them to respond in the way they chose. I wish I could do this more often in my 4th grade. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I would have liked being there to see this in action. What a great exercise.

  4. Seney this is powerful teaching. There has been a thread sometimes about giving students more choice, in reading, in writing, in response, & I so believe it is of great value. You just told the story that proves it again. Great to hear!