Try this.

“Here’s an index card for each of you. On one side please write down three new ideas you learned from our discussion today. On the other, please write a question you think we should pursue to better understand what we are learning.

“You do not need to put your name on the card. I will use these to assess what we accomplished and where we might take our work from here.”

So?

When we shift from talking at students to talking with them, we see them learning in the classroom. We pay attention to what works and what does not—and we keep an open mind. We listen more. We see them engaged and retaining more of what we teach, so we seek other strategies. We investigate the Internet and educational publications. We rearrange the room as needed. We ask colleagues for their ideas and practices. Teachers at my workshops are frequently surprised by how much they learn from fellow participants.

We can begin by envisioning teaching as giving piano lessons. We need to see ourselves as the piano teacher who invites her students to play alongside her, giving feedback, and sending them home with new skills to practice. If she to simply demonstrated how the keys moved, identified the notes she played, pointed to the score, and so on, her students would leave without any techniques and skills to try on their own.

Engaging students in activities with purpose is essential. Not to do so leads to doing activities for their own sake. As interesting and fun as they may be, when activities fail to connect to a larger purpose, we waste valuable time.

What do you think? 

For more ideas about how to make meaning see Chapter 6 in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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