ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 62, Thursday, December 6, 2007
This morning my students and I installed a new classroom job -- what the students voted to call the "positive note giver" (PNG). It began when I sort of offhandedly asked them if they thought it would be a good idea to have one student, during the literary discussion, walk around the circle to look at journals and annotations, and offer compliments and perhaps a sticker. Most of them immediately liked the idea, so we tried it today and it worked quite well. During the discussion, I sat with the students, observing and writing brief notes to kids about what I noticed in the discussion, while the student doing the new job quietly examined journals and books. When I occasionally watched this student -- the PNG -- it was obvious that he or she enjoyed the chance to look at other kids' work and offer praise for it. I saw looks of both earnestness and delight as they went about their duties.
This new job may have several benefits. In the past, I was always the PNG, walking the circle and looking at kids' homework, but this new job will enable me to occasionally sit in with the students during the discussion, both to observe their participation and offer suggestions. Also, the job will enable each student to see what other kids' journals and annotations look like, and it will also give them the opportunity to compliment their classmates -- an opportunity that, surprisingly, doesn't come too often to kids.
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I would love to figure out a way to keep track of the "building" that goes on during one of the student-led literary discussions in my class. It's interesting to notice how one student builds upon the previous student's comment, and the next student often builds onto those. Sometimes a student will double back to a comment made several minutes ago and build onto it, adding a detail or extending it or perhaps altering it somewhat -- but always going forward. I'm going to think about a diagram of some sort that will help me "track" the building of these very intelligent discussions.