One of the advantages of teaching four classes of US History to freshmen is the varying degrees of success I experience within any given day. Sometimes the best-laid plans need to simmer and stew within another setting before scraping them altogether, and today was no exception as my students are in their final days of assembling their History Day projects.
My objective was to have each class participate in a student feedback session when they would sit down with other groups and offer constructive input on each other's work. I reorganized the tables in my room so they represented a total of seven hexagons, placing name cards on specific sections to insure balance at the start of the exercise. Each group was given a graphic organizer on which they were instructed to place a simplified copy of their thesis and three supporting ideas. I even supplied some possible questions to trigger their thought process and upped the ante with the awarding of bonus points should a group choose to use some of the ideas offered up to them.
It would be a two-minute drill whereby one group would explain their project by their thesis and supporting data, then the other group would counter with possible ways to enhance and improve the presentation. The egg-timer icon on my computer would alert the groups when their two minutes were up, and the other side of the table would then take on this same routine. Once completed, one group would rotate on to the next table and the routine was in place. Ready-set-go....
My first hour class was somewhat dumbfounded by what was asked of them, and the two minutes would sometime feel like two hours. After the third exchange they warmed up to the idea and seemed to enjoy making their presentations to their fellow classmates. I roamed from table to table and witnessed some good conversations taking place, not to mention some outright silliness taking place. Sometimes you simply have to grin and bear it.....then wait for the next class to step foot in the room.
The second time around with a larger class, the exercise appeared to flow smoother...no doubt the result of a better chemistry of students in the mix. Again, the third class went better than expected, but it was my 6th Hour class that really got into it and benefited the most. From the very beginning each group's graphic organizer was filled with suggestions and I was pleasantly surprised by what I witnessed throughout the period. I wanted to make sure students weren't just telling me what I needed to hear, so their replies of "this really helped our project" was welcome news on all fronts.
There are days when lessons are well-received by some classes, and other times I simply feel the need to run for the hills with great frustration. Classroom chemistry can make or break a good lesson, and you never know what to expect until the day is complete. This makes it almost a 'yogism' of sorts....you know, the "it's never over 'till it's over" kind of feeling. It was a day that made me glad I stuck it out, rather than scraping the plan altogether after 1st Hour. Persistence is definitely a key ingredient to success in the classroom!