10 January 2013

Reflection: TLaC Chapter 1

First, let me paraphrase the techniques:
  • No Opt Out—Never allow students to say "I don't know" when you ask them a question. If they do, have the class give the right answer, then have that student repeat the right answer.
  • Right Is Right—Don't let students get away with partial answers. Lead them into giving the full, right answer.
  • Stretch It—When students do have the right answer, take it further (or higher into Bloom's taxonomy).
  • Format Matters—Students will use proper grammar, complete sentences, and correct units, all in an acceptable volume.
  • Without Apology—There's no such thing as a boring subject. Don't apologize for your curriculum. Save your curriculum complaints for your blog, but until the bureaucrats make changes, make it as exciting and useful as possible, and it will become such.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of this is a form of immediate feedback to students. Immediate feedback creates high expectations that students are motivated to reach.

A second idea that seems prevalent is that of a confident, charismatic, serious, bold, and fearless teacher. Not a grasshopper. (No classroom management techniques mentioned yet, however. Perhaps these techniques take care of that innately.)

At the end of the chapter is a "Reflection and Practice" section. My natural inclination is to skip it, thinking to myself, "That's stupid," except that the voice that says it in my mind is the voice of a generic, unmotivated, whiney student. So I will do it. Here.
The chapter presented five techniques for raising academic expectations in your classroom: No Opt Out, Right Is Right, Stretch It, Format Matters, and Without Apology. Which of these will be the most intuitive for you to implement in your classroom? Which will be the toughest, and what will make it difficult?
I think the technique I'm closest to already using is Right Is Right. One thing I try to emphasize is file format and naming. It's one of the simplest things and probably one of the most useful techniques for future, and students might complain about it being a simple thing and it shouldn't be a big deal, but I enforce it. It should also be fairly easy to implement Stretch It by teaching software tools, then leading discussions about what sorts of things could be accomplished with those tools.

The toughest technique to apply might be No Opt Out. I actually tried it a little bit today, and it just didn't feel natural. Maybe I can figure out a way to make it mine. We'll see. Without Apology might be tough, but at the same time I'm excited to try it. One aspect of my teaching, which I consider to be a strength in some ways, is that I try to be very honest with students. But that honesty tends to lead to apologizing for curriculum: "I hated doing this when I was in school, but it's important," could be replaced with, "This is a tough practice to get into, but once you do, everything else will come easier."
There are [a] variety of reasons that a student might opt out of answering a question... See how many possible reasons for No Opt Out you can [come up with]. How should the breadth of possible reasons listed cause you to consider or adapt the tone with which you engage students when you use No Opt Out?
He genuinely doesn't know. He didn't understand the question, and is afraid to ask you to clarify. He wasn't paying attention. He is afraid of getting it wrong. He doesn't consider that he might actually know the answer if he thinks. He doesn't feel like thinking. He's too tired to think.

I think one helpful thing would be to enliven the classroom with my attitude. A student might be more likely to engage his brain if it seems like something exciting or important is happening. No Opt Out might help raise the expectation that every student will know the idea being discussed. He might then expect himself to be able to understand, and if not, then maybe it's not his fault, and the teacher will take more time to work it out.
One of the keys to responding effectively to "almost right" answers...is having a list of phrases you think of in advance. [Write] four or five of your own.
(1) Good, you're on the right track. Let's go with it and try to get more specific and detailed. (2) I know what you're trying to say, and what you're trying to say is right, let's just get the right words on the idea so we all have it in common. (3) You're close but we just need a little clarification before moving on. (4) That's part of it. Who can finish it off?
Try to think of ten Stretch It questions you might ask for the following question: What do you think is the lesson of "The Three Little Pigs"? Objective: Students will be able to explore the moral of the story and the genre of fables in general.
(1) Name another story with a similar moral. (2) Tell me about a time in your life when you've learned the same lesson. (3) Why do you think the first pig thought straw was a good idea? (4) Why do you think the second pig thought that twigs were a good building material? (5) Name another story that has a wolf as the antagonist. What are the similarities and differences to this one? (6) Why do wolves make such great antagonists?

I can only come up with six at the moment.
Try to imagine the most "boring" content that you could teach. Now script the first five minutes of your class in which you find a way to make it exciting and engaging to students.
The subject I was referring to earlier, the one that I hated having to do, is storyboards. The pros use them all the time to map out complicated shots. Maybe that's the problem. When we make movies as kids, we don't have the technology or money to actually do those complicated shots. So, either you storyboard a not-so-exciting part of a movie that you end up making, or you storyboard an exciting scene that you can never do.

Star Wars is easily one of my favorite movies, and I've seen dozens of behind-the-scenes features, which include a lot about storyboarding. Maybe for the first five minutes of the storyboard discussion, we could discuss the first shot in the original Star Wars, the one where the rebel cruiser flies overhead, lasers blasting all over, followed by the seemingly-endless Imperial star destroyer. This scene, as well as every other special effects and action scene in star wars, was storyboarded beforehand. And it wouldn't be a very difficult storyboard to draw. (I think drawing is the most painful thing to do for most students.)

Then, when they made Return of the Jedi, they used little action figures to live-storyboard the speeder chase in the forest. I'm sure that would be a fun activity.

Granted, that wasn't exactly a plan of the first five minutes, but it's a start, and I'm tired, and this blog is long.

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