Implementing 10-2 enables teachers to activate learning during class. No more taking lecture notes for a period and then having to learn them at home. Instead, time at home can become more adventurous, more satisfying––and more productive. Here’s one example from Teaching from the Middle of the Room that not only makes homework more engaging but also opens the way to active conversations in class:

Once teachers realize the value and importance of creating engaged class time by concentrating on face-to-face conversations, they will take time to teach students how to pursue learning before coming to class. When students understand the joy of arriving at class to share and discuss what matters to them with their peers and teacher, they will become more willing to commit to exploring ideas on their own. Then, homework—home practice—becomes a welcome precursor to attending class rather than a boring chore afterwards.

Teachers can put a lecture-type presentation online to study before class. Such an approach appeals to students’ desire to learn using electronic devices while in pursuit of worthwhile knowledge and understandings. Using fingers and thumbs to discover rather than to socialize is a novel idea indeed! Coming to class expecting to engage in conversation is so different from sitting and listening to the teacher!

Invoking conversation changes relationships. In the words of Margaret Wheatley,

  • We acknowledge one another as equals.
  • We try to stay curious about each other.
  • We recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners.
  • We slow down so we have time to think and reflect.
  • We remember that conversation is the natural way we humans think together.
  • We expect it to be messy at times.

Some of the greatest joys in my teaching included sitting in a circle with eighth graders and pondering each student’s comment without squeezing it into the script of the lesson; it meant asking “What do you mean?” or “What do others think?” rather than correcting and reinterpreting; deciding not to call on the first hand raised; waiting patiently for responses from reluctant speakers; taking time to reflect; putting students’ insights on the board… How different from teaching as delivery. How special. How important.

Less delivery, more invitations, less talking, more listening… It’s all in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn and you can find it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918

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