I’m following up yesterday’s general, philosophical post with one about a highly specific success.
In one activity this morning, I wanted the students to write down how to get from their house to a place in their neighborhood.
Now, I have a history of introducing this type of writing activity in such a way that half the class has no idea what I want them to write about, but the other half knows exactly what to write about. Today, I really wanted to make sure that everyone knew what to write about.
I realized that in the past, I haven’t treated the “think of a place in your neighborhood” piece as its own, separate step. I should though. “Think of something” is an abstract thing for students to do and there’s no embedded feedback if they’re just thinking alone. How do they know if they’re on the right track? It also doesn’t always make much sense without the accompanying assignment. However, when I immediately pair it with the assignment, everybody misses something because it’s too much all at once.
Today, I modeled first by talking about my neighborhood. I listed three places in my neighborhood near my home: a grocery store and two restaurants. Then I asked students to tell me a place in their neighborhood. After some difficulties regarding the exact definition of “neighborhood” (one student seemed to want a quantified radius) and something like ten minutes of discussion, we had heard at least eight students list a few places near their houses.
At that point, I asked students to pick one place each and write directions from their house to there. I gave concrete examples (Student A will write how to get from her house to the 7-11 in her neighborhood. Student B will write how to get from her house to the mall.) so everyone knew what they should write about.
And you know what? Every single student knew that they should put something on paper about getting from their home to a place in their neighborhood. They had varied degrees and methods of success, in part because my writing instructions were not as clear and well-modeled as could be. But by gosh did everyone know the topic.
It’s a small success, but I can build on it.