Thursday, August 27, 2009

Starting Fresh Again

I haven't posted to this blog for a long time for good reasons: the birth of my first child and a master's program and project. But the master's is done, and we have a babysitter during the school day. So here I am.

If you've ever seen this blog before, you might have noticed that all the sidebar items are gone, the links, the bookmarks, the pictures, and whatever other clutter I had there. I no longer have a twitter account; I came keystrokes away from deleting my facebook account; and I don't look at my google reader feeds anymore.

Instead, I'm holding myself accountable to a clear vision and focused minimalism. I'll be writing about my classroom and the work of creating a professional learning community at my school.

So today is the first day of school, and I used the same simplified approach to planning my sophomore English curriculum as to reviving this blog. With every move and activity I planned, I demanded to know whether it was necessary in accomplishing my goal for the class. Everything else had to go. There are some basic moves that good readers, writers, thinkers, and speakers make. These moves can be practiced in infinite combination. That's what I want to do.

My goal for today's English class is simple: students start thinking about the responsibilities of being a learner and start practicing one of the habits of mind of a good learner, asking questions. To warm-up, I'm asking students to define "learner" in their own words. What are they bringing to the table? What are their assumptions? Then, for both fun and substance, I'm showing this clip, followed by discussion of the concept of process, practice, and finding meaning.
And to introduce questioning, I'm using an activity called "7 Minute Interviews." It's simple. One student asks questions to keep the other student talking for 7 minutes, then switch roles. After the 14 minutes, students write together about the process. Where did they start? Where did they end up? What observations can they make about the questions and answers and process? Their homework is to carry around a sheet of paper to write down all the questions they think about for the next four days (until our next class).


Wesley Fryer said...

That sounds like a great activity, Chris. You might offer the Great Questions List" from Storycorps as a resource for your students as they interview each other and search for good, open-ended questions to ask each other.

Good luck with your cleaner and less cluttered approach to blogging, learning and teaching. That's a tall order but I'm sure you can do it! I'll look forward to continuing to follow along.

C. Watson said...

Thanks for the comment and link Wes. I added storycorp's questions to my student resources page. Today, we're going to rank their questions for importance, talk about what makes a "good" question, and write as exploration of the questions. The case I'm trying to make is that all literature, art, and class curriculum, for example, are attempts to explore and answer big questions, "essential" questions from different perspectives.

C. Watson said...

Thanks Wes. Still struggling to keep up with the blog, and just added my own tumblr. I'm trying to remember that it's about the engagement and experience with the reading, writing, thinking, not about a product.