Each child has a voice
In a secure space
Voices are revealed.
I am reading Tuned in and fired up: How teaching can inspire real learning in the classroom by Sam Intrator. It is the published version of his doctoral dissertation so I read it out of a twofold interest: as a teacher and as someone getting ready for the dissertation process. Sam asks teachers to consider the following question: “What engages children in learning?” That was the focus of his study and he found an innovative teacher, Mr. Quinn, who lived up to the challenge.
Mr. Quinn was studying Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, but found the students were not enjoying the early part of the book. He took them outside to the ball diamond, had them select a small patch of ground, and spread out from their classmates. Mr. Quinn asked students to observe, collect data, and write about a 1 foot by 1 foot (30 cm by 30 cm) patch of grass. They were to try see the world as a poet-scientist and find their way to describe their small ecosystem. Despite initial grumbling, the students became engaged and wrote poetry, reflective journals, and connected that patch to their lives in many ways. For many, it was the highlight of their learning that year.
In Grade 8 Social Studies, I found an activity in the Teacher Resource Manual called A Culture of Peace. This activity engages students and brings out even the voice of those who generally choose not speak up. This is one of those activities with no right or wrong answer.
First we discuss a Culture of War, which by the standards of the day should be easy to do, but an interesting thing happens. About 10-15 minutes into this discussion, students run out of descriptors for a culture of war or they repeat what has already been said. I record comments on the whiteboard and say, “It is time for a change of pace. What are some descriptors for a Culture of Peace?” I fill up a whiteboard with student responses. They are so engaged they know when they are duplicating previous responses. They are listening intently to each other. The shy, reluctant students engage in the conversation, because they feel no risk of being wrong.
The first time we did this we had to stop after an hour because we were borrowing another classroom and the teacher needed it back. When we walked out of the classroom to return to our classroom, one of the boys turned to a friend and said, “I could do this all day.” As a teacher, I felt like I was on Cloud 9. I look forward to this activity each year. The students and I become engaged in our learning.
Question: What was one learning experience that engaged you fully and made learning worthwhile and so memorable to be vividly recalled years later?