Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seminars Without Me

I have always had my AP Lit students tackle our final novel, Things Fall Apart, in seminar groups. My purpose is to show them as well as I can that they are truly ready to do this kind of thing on their own -- that they can read and read well and that they have great ideas and can create interpretations without a "teacher answer key." They do lit circles, independent readings, and class presentations of new works throughout high school, so this is the last of many times they have been handed the reins -- and I hope to make it a great final one to remember.

Some years though have gone better than others. It is a hard time to get seniors to put in 100%, and some students just have chosen to not engage. So each year, I tweak and revise the unit based on the feedback I gathered from my prior class and my own observations. This year, my goal is to include this kind of reflection DURING the two weeks of their seminar meetings. This ties to my goal below of working in more time for reflection -- and I'd like to see how regular reflection of their own habits affect my students' work and engagement.

I plan to begin with a suggestion by Carol Jago in With Rigor for All: letting them know I will be silently observing each group, noting things to share at the end of class but that I won't talk until then. I will use these final class comments to reinforce positive behaviors I saw in the groups -- encouraging quieter members to talk, supporting an idea with a great textual reference, etc. But in the middle, I will flip it. Rather than ending with my reflection, I will have them email me how they feel they themselves did in that seminar. I hope my final reflections will help them see how to then reflect on themselves thoroughly.

In the end, if my seniors leave me as even slightier adept at self-reflection, then my class will have served their lives well.

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