I have been challenged by the students who have the “between Thanksgiving and Christmas” doldrums at school. Perhaps I am a bit to blame also, as there has been so many different activities happening at school as we prepare for Christmas. Have my lessons been as engaging as they should be? I keep this in mind as I continue with my preparations.
Recently I picked up my copy of Total Participation Techniques to remind myself of new ways to keep the students actively involved in the lessons. The tool that has had the best success so far with my Integrated Studies class is what I call Appointment Agenda. We set up a number of “appointment times” on the agenda page so that each student has a set time to ‘meet’ with another person in class. Then when I want the students to share their thinking with others, I simply ask them to meet with their “9:30 appointment” or any other time that I choose. I usually pick 3 or 4 different time slots for each sharing session. This gets the students out of their seats and mixing with others in class. This way, the students need to share their thinking with more than one student. This also helps them “fine-tune” their answers and become more explicit in their thinking More importantly, though, is that this provides me with an opportunity to hear numerous conversations on the topic we are studying. I can very quickly get a sense on the general level of comprehension that we may have. It is a great, quick formative assessment that encourages some physical engagement with the learning, too.