Thursday, October 25, 2018

Turn and Talk

It's a busy week for me. Not only are we running an election, and not only am I busy correcting misinformation I find all over the net, but I actually have to teach every now and then. Sometimes even more. Okay, I have to teach every day. They pay me to do this stuff, you know.

I'm teaching an advanced class for the first time in ten years. It's not like I haven't done this before. I used to love doing it. I got a real thrill out of introducing newcomers to novels. I would do so until someone else would request the class and then I'd get bounced somewhere else. I was pretty much up for whatever. Since I've been chapter leader, though, I've been teaching the beginners. I really like doing that.

Then the geniuses in Albany did some messing around with the NYSESLAT placement exam. You see, after the introduced Part 154, they needed to prove it was working. So now everyone gets promoted to a higher level. The beginners now are really beginners. No more false beginners. Actually, a whole lot of students in my advanced class would benefit greatly from attending my beginner class. But the test says otherwise.

I've been teaching The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, which I really love. It's been getting mixed reviews from my students, though. On a recent test, I gave a five point question asking what they thought about it. Basically, they could write anything and get credit. One kid wrote something like the book is so boring he couldn't be bothered reading it. I took off five points for that one.

I've been trying to initiate book discussions. The participation wasn't strong enough for my taste. I had a handful of kids who wanted to answer every question and a whole lot of kids who didn't want to do anything, ever. Today, I tried saying something I never said before.

"Do your other teachers tell you to turn and talk?"


"Okay, Turn and talk to a partner. On a scale of one to five, with one being nothing and five being super horrible, how bad is it to steal a car?"

One of the characters in the book had done that, and his wife felt terrible guilt about it. I got much more participation than usual this time. My students gave opinions from one to five. I asked the guy who said five why he did.

"Well, there could be a pregnant woman in the car, and she could be on her way to the hospital."

I never would have thought of that. I'd kind of taken turn and talk as a cliche. I think one of the commenters on this blog called himself that. But I used it a few more times, and it really expanded the participation. I was much happier leaving that book discussion than the others I'd tried to lead.

I do more directed activities with the beginners. Can you swim? Ask him/ her/ me?
Can you dance?
Can you eat 50 hot dogs?

One kid said yes to that yesterday. I hope I'm not around when he does it. That too might be something to turn and talk about.
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