ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 69, Monday, December 17, 2007
I continue to be impressed with the work of the 9th graders on their collaborative projects. In groups of four, they have been given a daunting assignment which they must plan and execute together -- a seven-paragraph essay plus a complicated fifteen-minute performance. When I assigned this project about six weeks ago, and I had some doubts about how or whether it would work, but lately I've been feeling optimistic about it. Today I observed several groups as they put the final touches on their essays, and I was impressed. For example, I overheard Ray and Allan discussing a sentence in their group's essay. Allan was saying the sentence seemed awkward, and Ray asked him if he had any suggestions. As I leaned forward to listen carefully, Ray made several very intelligent suggestions, and the two of them huddled and continued discussing the sentence. (A teacher's dream: students intently conferring about how a sentence could be written most accurately and smoothly.) Later, I saw Rajon reading something, when he suddenly put down the paper and exclaimed, "Tom, this opening paragraph is awesome!" (Their group had divided up the duties for the long essay.) Tom smiled proudly and replied, "Should be. I worked really hard on it." This is the kind of cooperative effort I hoped would occur when I started this project. The kids are doing what professional adults are often required to do -- labor together in "committee" to create a distinguished product everyone in the group can be proud of. They're learning how to "build" an academic assignment together, to construct a school project collectively the way architects and carpenters construct a house. It's been a pleasure to watch.