Games we played:
Wave of Clapping - started by doing "the wave", and then changed it to clapping. People volunteered to start it. Worked well, sense of achievement
Name and gesture - following Tim B's lead, I'm having six people do their name and a gesture, with the whole group repeating it, then having one other person do all six names and gestures.
Holding up arm and being quiet - an attention-getter rather than a game, but I've started occasionally timing it and telling the group how quickly we got quiet.
I had students walk across the circle while I counted down from 10 - this is a good way to quickly shuffle a group, I discovered.
Thoughts and questions
On the value, or lack thereof, of critique structures
This is an ongoing personal issue for me - I find that I design structures that I believe will lead to more valuable critique, and then don't feel like I have the wherewithal to enforce those structures once everyone starts working. Suddenly everyone is doing their own thing, and whatever I put up on the board and read out is (as far as I can tell) being ignored.
For the record, I provided sentence structures in order to help kids to give specific and valuable critique to each other. Here's what they were:
“I love how you make __ sound when you say __”
“Why do you make __ sound when you say __?”“Could you try doing __ when you say __?”
My sense is that nobody was using these - it would have been interesting to do an exit card in which I asked about whether students used them, and (if so) whether they were helpful or (if not) why not.
Now, partly this is the condition of working with the full team, as we were doing today - with 56 kids in groups of four, all at different points in their rehearsals and all with incrementally different levels of investment in the work at hand, even if everyone's trying to do a great job and being strategic about what they do, not everyone needs the same thing in order to improve their work. Now, one issue here is that when a group has the freedom to decide what they need most (which, in my experience, is something students really value - and something I personally have always really valued), they have the freedom to make a bad choice about what they need most. By this I don't mean that they can choose to slack off, which is a different issue, but that they may eschew a strategy that would be beneficial for them in favor of one that is less beneficial. There is an opportunity for learning to take place here (evaluating the results of the strategy they chose against other possible strategies, and deciding to make a different choice in the future) but in my experience, within an hour of working on a project in a group, there are too many variables and moments of small choices to be able to parse out where things went wrong, or, even more complicated, where things went less optimally than they could have.
The other issue, which is much easier to remedy than the first, is that I was giving students brief instructions and sending them off to carry them out (or not) independently. One of the thing Ron Berger makes very clear in the brilliant "critique" chapter of Leaders of their own Learning is that effective critique requires a lot of heavily teacher-directed critique.
Thoughts and questions about our first performance
We performed our Mango Street vignettes today. A few thoughts:
- I want to work explicitly on volume and expression in speaking (fortunately I got some good looking books about this at the National Theatre).
- Hearing entire groups speaking lines together was generally very effective. It makes me interested in "scoring" more readings for different combinations of voices reading specific words and lines simultaneously, so it isn't just "one voice" or "all voices"
- The sounds that students made with physical objects tended to the literal (imitating sounds from the world, rather than creating something musical based on evoking feelings) but their choices of who read which lines tended to be more musical, less informed by "boys should read lines by boys" thinking.
- There were moments when people were laughing to cover discomfort. This is likely to happen a lot this year. I want to figure out a good way into delving into why this laughter happens, and what it tells us about what is worthwhile to explore, and how to get deeper into it?
And a few questions:
- What's the most powerful way to pick up Mango Street from here, and what do we want kids to get from reading it (or re-reading it?)
- How will kids feel like they're getting better and better at things they want to get better and better at, and how will they feel like they're being "pushed"?
- "pushed" feels like a verb that takes us into an unhelpful metaphor, in which the teacher is a driver of progress against the student's will, but I'm having trouble thinking of a better one.
- What could we have done to increase personal investment in each vignette? To make students feel more like the words they are saying MATTER and connect to (or meaningfully contrast with) their own experience of their world?
- How can students feel like they're taking part in a project that is a big deal?
Finally, some more photos: