Sunday, June 18, 2006

As an assignment for one of our graduate school courses here, EDSE 500, we were told to implement one of three new teaching strategies we had learned in class. I chose to try one called "the Muddiest Part of the Lesson," in which each student would record, on an index card, which part of that day's lesson they considered the most confusing. Friday's lesson just happened to be on subject-verb agreement.

The new strategy totally flopped. When it came time to collect the cards at the end of class, not one student had written a question. While I would like to say that the amount of white I saw could be attributed to the clarity of my lesson, I know this is not true. What I think happened was that the students either 1) were too involved in the game we played for the second half of class (subject-verb agreement baseball, courtesy of Mr. Joel Hebert. None of my students have exceptional "subject-verb agreement fantasy baseball" values, but I'd watch out for Troy and Hannah in the later rounds of your draft); 2) weren't involved enough in the lesson to provide a detailed, critical analysis of what they were retaining and what they were not; 3) didn't want to do anything I had assigned, regardless of how simple; or 4) simply forgot about their index cards (even though I explained their purpose twice at the beginning of class and then referred to them again about halfway through). I am inclined to pick #4, particularly given the fact that I told the students they could keep their questions anonymous if they so chose and didn't get the requisite "Mr. Elias, are you gay?" or "Mr. Elias, where do babies come from?" responses.

What can I take away from this? Although one of my lead teachers mentioned that the students were as engaged during the "baseball game" as they had been during any lesson all summer, I still think I am lacking in student engagement. If they were truly learning (and learning actively, that is, as I want them to), they would have been able to critique my teaching and their involvement in some way, however minor. All of this is to say, I really need to do a better job of engaging my students.


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