T Sale's Blog

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blogging About Group Projects

I thought of a way to use the blog to solve an age old problem with doing group work in class. Students always complain that one or two members of the group do all the work, or that one group member slacks off yet gets credit for the work that the rest do. Right now both my English 10 and Science Fiction classes are working on group projects, and I’m having them blog about their progress. They can either rotate the responsibility for reporting the group’s work, or the members of the group can each report their progress individually. With the record of what each student says they have done there for all to see, students can monitor one another and comment on the blog if they feel the report of their work is inaccurate. The instructions I’ve given the students (somewhat different for each class) are posted on the class blogs at sale5th.blogspot.com and salesf.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Doing the Compliance Dance

As we belatedly polish off fall semester and begin spring semester, I keep realizing how mired I still am in giving assignments and asking questions oriented more toward compliance than toward understanding. Just today in my English 10 class, we spent 20 minutes discussing the literal events of a story, and just the last two minutes talking about the meaning behind the events. In part, it was me asking questions designed to “catch” students who hadn’t read the story (and I did catch some), and in part it was starting with simple questions to get the discussion rolling and then keeping on that track too long. I’m trying to shift the balance from “check for (literal) understanding” to “check for (deep) understanding.” It would help if there were some kind of implant we could install in students when they arrive at AHS that would make them care about every story I teach; I’m still struggling with finding just the right questions to ask to spark interest. I think it’s the hardest part of constructivist teaching.

By the way, for each student I “caught” having not read the story we were discussing, I asked why he/she didn’t read it. The typical answers were “I forgot” or “I left the story at school.” I wonder: are there questions or other “anticipatory sets” powerful enough to eliminate those excuses?