Modifications Teachers Do

This past semester I had an extremely small class of bright but shy students. No matter how much "wait time" I gave or how carefully I phrased discussion questions, dead silence followed. I'm not one to run a monologue so I had to do something. I started handing out 3x5 file cards when I wanted to get some dialogue. Students would write their thoughts down, I'd collect them and leave another for the next question. Then I would share responses and phrase a follow up based on what I read. It is not a perfect system but it got us going through the first half of the semester until the students became comfortable enough with each other to speak out loud.

Critics will say that I did not help them become more independent but I did what I could for pushing thinking about the subject matter (I did force a couple research presentations). Short thoughts I would write on the smartboard so we could organize ideas and expand on them.
I post this in the interest of saying: 
Dear government administrators, teachers naturally modify lessons every day based on individuals, individual classes, class dynamics, and current events. We don't have to write out every modification we do and document it on a form - none of us have time to do that for every situation we modify!- we do it naturally. Teachers are professionals, so please give us that respect.

(Readers please note that I am speaking to all those that would add "accountability" in the form of documentation and not to my personal administration.)


mahrjeff said...

I think you are really helping those students by giving them the notecards. I teach at a community college and run into something quite similar (students who just won't speak up) and my solution is pretty similar to yours. Some students are very nervous about speaking up and exposing themselves.... I could *force* them to talk (cold calling, punishment with points etc) but then you end up with inauthentic answers and zero genuine interest. I have found that giving students a way to write their questions, and then me answering them anonymously in front of the class actually tends to change the dynamic of the room. After a couple weeks of it more students seem to ask their questions out loud, and the ones who don't shouldn't be forced. By the way, my method is through feedback sheets, an idea I got from a 2009 MIT opencourseware class on teaching, which is the best set of lectures on teaching I have ever seen.

s.p. v said...

This year I am running into the same problem with one of my class. They are really quiet for a class of 37 students. I would wait and wait, and occasionally would get a student brave enough to respond to my questions. I have been trying encouraged them to share their responses and letting them know that it's okay to to make mistakes - it's all part of the learning process - but they still haven't internalized this yet. Probably a little to early in the year to get them to buy in to it and the fact that most say it's too early in the morning for their brain to function.

I like your idea of passing out the index cards to modify the usual 10-15 second wait time for a student's response. I think I am going to give this a try, but substituting the index card to strips of printing paper cut in advance. Index cards are too pricey for our school budget.