ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 64, Monday, December 10, 2007
Today in the 9th grade classes we had the first of the "oral arguments", and it was as successful as I could have hoped. The idea came from a lawyer’s visit to class, in which he spoke of the importance (especially for an attorney) of being able not only to write a persuasive essay but to also speak it with grace and power. Last week's essay assignment had to do with whether Pip, from Great Expectations, had any good qualities. I broke the class randomly into two groups, one arguing yes and the other no, and they wrote their essays from that perspective. Then, today, each of the students stood at the podium and read a portion of his or her essay to the "judges", who, this week, happened to be Ava and Noah. I encouraged the presenters to speak with dignity and decorum, as you would expect in a court of law. They each began by saying "Your honor and fellow students", and then did their best to present their arguments with poise and power. Judges Noah and Ava listened carefully while taking notes, and their jobs tonight will be to write a paragraph in which they explain their "decision".
I'm considering doing this on a fairly regular basis. It may give the kids a little more motivation for doing a good job on their essays. Instead of writing just for Mr. Salsich, they'll be writing to convince their classmates and a judge. We'll see how it works as the weeks pass.