I am a 10th grader at Riverside High School. I am a student, golfer, and member of the #bowtieboys. I strive to be an advocate for every student, and I believe every student should have a chance to learn in their own way. Every student deserves a fair and equal education that is flexible for what they need. When this happens, students will be more engaged, and lessons will have more energy. This will lead to a better chance for students to retain the content taught, and hopefully learn some skills along the way.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Classroom Collaboration: Discussions

              “Students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning” ( Homo sapiens are naturally a very social species, and I believe that students' social skills should be practiced and taught in school as well as content. After all, part of school is about teaching kids how to be functional adults. Too often teachers hold long lectures in their classrooms that students lose interest in very quickly. One positive way to get the same messages across to your students in an engaging manner is to make the classroom have more of a collaborative nature. The best way to go about making a collaborative classroom is by having more open discussion in class. Discussions can be a beautiful thing in the classroom if done correctly. They force students to actively think about the content that they are learning in class while incorporating that skill building component. Another great thing about discussion is that you can tie in real life issues and morality into the lesson. This will further increase the level of engagement of students in the lesson.

             As a student, I have always had a very difficult time staying focused in lectures and lessons that do not actively teach the content. It’s not that I am just bored and don’t care for that class but I just don’t find lectures particularly interesting, and I do not retain the information best from just listening to someone talk about it. I have talked to many of my fellow classmates and they feel the same way. It seems most students today need an active classroom with application to the real world in the lesson. In one of my classes, we have been reading off the promethean board for the last hour of class all year, and I would say 90% of the class had a very difficult time staying focused. Instead of just complaining, I and a few classmates talked to this teacher about bringing in some discussion about the text we were reading. The next class instead of just sitting through a a story shared to us, we were asked what we thought the morals of this particular story was, what lessons were taught, and if we agreed or disagreed with the author’s/narrator’s view. Almost immediately, students that did not regularly participate in class were saying some really great things, and a great discussion started about the philosophies of the story, and how it relates to issues today. “To accept the author's vision and thinking or reject it” (Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, 2013). I walked out of class that day still thinking about what was discussed in class, instead of being tired and bored, as did other students. The mark of a great class is not that the student leaves with answers, but that the student leaves with answers and more questions.

            Discussions need to have some framework however; it often fails when students are given absolutely no structure to stick to. This is one of the most common objections to teachers making their classrooms more collaborative is that students will end up going on tangents and then everyone will start talking about whatever they want. The role of the teacher in discussions is often debated. I believe that the teacher should carefully guide the discussion and act as a participant, without completely taking over. This is often the issue with Socratic seminars, teachers act as the boss of the conversation, and it shuts down the open feeling that discussions should provide. For example, the teacher should ask thought provoking questions that let students connect to their personal lives like “Is ‘live life in the now, and don’t worry about the future’ a good philosophy for high school students to live by?”. This way students can really think about how to use the information and lessons they are learning in their own lives.

            Students often think that teachers are on a level above them, instead of just people. Talking with your students in this manner will help reduce this difference in “class” if you will. If students feel that their teachers are working with them, as opposed to just supervising the work, they will feel more connected and open in class and will be more likely to contribute to the class more often. This connection will build rapport between student and teacher, which is a very important aspect of school, as you can read more about in my first blog post. This will also improve connections between students, which is a very important skill for students to learn.

            Collaboration and discussion is a great way to engage students efficiently, especially in reading. Having a discussion about a reading assignment gives students a reason to read what they are assigned. Also, students will be able to pick up on some things that other students might have seen that they missed, furthering their knowledge on the text. Instead of just asking your students to silently read in class, you should encourage them to share what they have gathered. This collaboration can make students look deeper into text than they might have before, because they can see why they should read.

            No student likes sitting in a dark, dull, lecture based class where they feel like their time and individuality is being wasted. School is supposed to be a place that brings students creativity to the surface, not keep it bottled up until a lecture is over. Having deep connected discussions with your students is one way to make them feel more connected and engaged in class. It creates collaboration, while teaching skills and content simultaneously. If a discussion is executed properly, students will leave with more knowledge, and will still be thinking about what they discussed.

Works Cited:

Freemana1, Scott, Sarah L. Eddya, Miles McDonougha, Michelle K. Smithb, Nnadozie Okoroafora, and And Hannah Jordta. "Scott Freeman." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2017.

Beers, G. Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2013. Print.