Thinking back to my past few months student teaching, I can both identify ways that classroom discussion strategies have already been implemented in my classroom, as well as some new ones I may want to try. Concerning what I’ve already seen of these discussion methods, I know my students have played philosophical chairs in the lesson they are currently learning on impeachment. Students were posed the question of whether or not they thought Bill Clinton was deserving of impeachment and had students with opposing views stand on opposite sides of the room. Then, myself and my CT acted as moderators in the middle of the room and had students take turns defending their point of view. They were strongly encouraged to use evidence to support their view from articles we had read on the topic throughout the week. I thought this was a successful method for discussion and really gave my students who enjoy having their voice heard an appropriate setting for that. However, with such a large class, I did notice some of my more timid students try to fade into the background and try to offer as little to the conversation as possible. This is something my CT and I have discussed and will work on in further implementations of this strategy in class.
As far as implementing a new discussion strategy in my classroom, I actually really enjoyed participating in the fish bowl activity this past week in class. I think this discussion method may offer a possible solution to the issue that was present during philosophical chairs: not everyone getting the chance to speak. In a future lesson, I can easily see myself trying the fish bowl strategy and have students “tap in/tap out” with another student in the class to make sure that all of my students participate in the activity. Furthermore, this activity allows everyone in the class to take part in the activity with the presence of students that are taking notes on what the speaker is saying. This will give my students who have a tendency to be off task (especially with something like a classroom discussion) something to do that proves that they are paying attention to what is being said by their classmates. Although I haven’t implemented this strategy in my classroom just yet, I am very hopeful that my students will enjoy it.
For this lesson, I chose to use music to understand social problems through history. I had students listen to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and reflect on the lyrics and how it related to the late 1930’s. After a short discussion, I had students listen to Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”. Students were then to compare the two songs and discuss what they say about the time period they were written in. If there had been more time, students were to find their own song that relates to “Strange Fruit” and write about how the two compare and what they both say about the time period they were written in.
It was interesting to get feedback on this lesson. I chose to use the Kendrick Lamar song because I wanted to test it before I used it in my classroom. I have since found a song that does a better job comparing to “Strange Fruit” and I think I will use that song for my lesson instead. I got a lot more hesitant and negative reactions than I thought I would and have since wondered if that would have been the case had I changed the modern day song to compare “Strange Fruit” too. I think my own bias on what my classroom looks like and the classrooms I have been educated in created a comfortability for myself in talking about really heavy topics such as the racism, lynchings, and violence that are sung about in each song. I think that is where many people’s hesitation came from and am interested in seeing how this lesson works in classroom. I think I needed to refine my discussion questions a bit further, but also know that many people were just shocked that I was sharing this song, which surprised me. As surprised as I was, it was good for me to get that reaction so that I’m aware that not everyone would take this topic the same way. Racism and violence are still very present and prevalent in our world today and highlighting people’s experiences throughout history should not be something we shy away from as educators. Creating spaces for students to hear people’s experiences around problems such as lynching and racism is important for them to realize how big of a problem it is, even if it does not affect them directly.
This mini-lesson, much like the last one, could have obviously been refined but I still felt good about how successful, engaging, and organized it was. Student engagement seemed to be a success, and although I gave no assessment it seemed like students learned at least something about the Townshend Acts, loyalists v patriots, and other Road to Revolution topics. My main goal of this lesson was to have students critically thinking about decisions that would follow either a loyalist, patriot, or neutral path, and based on the participation I think there was some understanding of which choices would favor each “path.”
I was able to sense that there is refining to be done on the organization of this activity, such as planning further ahead about which decisions to make as a class and which decisions are indifferent enough to make an executive decision on. After doing this mini-lesson and using Mission US in class again, I found that the “Plickers” option can be great for engagement but a verbal response from students is much, much more efficient. The amount of ground covered in the lesson when we used verbal response was at least twice as much as when Plickers was used, but the engagement was not quite as widespread across the class.
Timing and work flow was substantially better when working with a class of 7 as opposed to working with a class of 30. Honestly, though, I’m not entirely sure why this is the case since the amount of time collecting plicker responses from 30 students was barely more than collecting from 7. My best guess is that when I do the Mission US lessons with a full class I go into a lot more detail (or perhaps even tangents) because of questions the students have.
The most important thing I learned from doing this mini-lesson was feeling how efficient and smooth the Mission US program could be in a smaller setting. By using what I noticed and felt when doing this lesson with a small class, I feel as though I can at least somehow improve how efficiently the program can be used in my full size class setting!