Monday, September 15, 2014

Tightly Woven Strengths

Three strengths that took me a long time to cultivate and are very tightly woven are...

1. Helping students get excited about reading.  I admit, my students didn't always care that much about reading.  Part of the problem was the books that I selected for them to read - things that I liked or that I thought they "should" read.  Sometimes, it turned out well, but more often than not, I was met with resistance.

Over the years, I learned to choose books that were challenging, but also engaging and fun.  It helped if they were banned somewhere.  Or if the content was somewhat scandalous.  Not that I let them read "trash," just something trashy enough to get them hooked.

Additionally, I learned to give them fun ways to respond to their reading.  Often, we Tweet.  Sometimes we write.  Mostly we engage in class discussions....

2. Leading a good class discussion.  The word "leading" is somewhat misleading, because I learned to avoid that role as much as I can.  Instead, I teach students the art of discussion - reading the body language of others, learning to add on to someone else's comment, how to challenge someone's opinion and how to redirect when things get off topic.  We use a tool that has helped us monitor the quality of the discussion and keep track of the contributions of everyone.  We keep the record as a reference for both discussion topics and performance.  The added benefit for me is that focusing on filling out the form keeps me from directing the discussion.  Click here to get the Discussion Tool.  It has helped me to be more a listener and less of a director.  Also, giving students an opportunity to TALK in meaningful ways is just plain fun...

3. My class is really fun.  I pride myself in my ability to keep things moving and make learning fun.  That doesn't always mean we play games, but sometimes we do.  Class favorites include The Lightning Round (where you have to answer or pass within a few seconds) or Which Doesn't Belong (sort of obvious).  Mostly, though, I like to crack jokes, keep things competitive enough so that every one tries, give everyone an opportunity to lead/teach.

My reward?  Not only does all this "fun" enhance the understanding of all, but it is motivating enough to keep students on their toes.  They learn pretty quickly that in order to participate in the "fun" of my class, you have to be prepared, wait your turn and show respect to everyone (including yourself).  My students work really hard - but they don't always realize it and they rarely complain!


  1. Nancy, I so agree with your "discussion" comment! And I am so excited to see someone else who diagrams discussions like I do!!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing the discussion tool. I have been looking for something like this. Great post, Nancy!