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[Teacher-talknovel] video 8 commentary
From: R A <towindwrd_at_yahoo.com>
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2012 09:01:52 -0800 (PST)
In my perfect world, there would be no grading. It’s always
been the most difficult aspect of my job. Yet, it is a reality. Even in most
jobs, professionals are evaluated on their performance and the grade is often
reflected by a dollar sign. How, then, as a teacher, can I assess my students in
an authentic way that honors the true value that was inherent in the novel. In
video eight, one suggestion was Socratic Seminars. This is a technique I have
used for over twenty years and is as old as, well, Socrates. Teaching in a k-8
environment, I have used this at all grade levels very effectively. The beauty
of Seminar is that it will vary in its scope, complexity and insightfulness
based on the groups who are involved in the discussion. When working with 8th graders reading “The Giver”, one group really became wrapped up in the issue of
procreation and the concept of selecting children to serve the society as “birth
mothers”. Another group, reading the same novel, didn’t even blink at that, but
were most concerned about the fate of elder citizens. The discussions can teach
you so much about where your students are developmentally, morally and
philosophically. The students also tend to open up about themselves in very
unexpected ways. When I taught “Jack and the Beanstalk” to second grade we had
an opener “Can a good person do bad things?” Through the discussion, one of my
second graders said he didn’t believe in coincidence. He pointed out that the
Bean seller had known Jack’s name when he saw him on the road with the cow. He
had known Jack’s name, my student said, because his dead father had sent the
bean seller TO him to make life easier for him and his mother. Taking those
items from the giant was not a crime because God had given Jack a way to get
them to help his family. Another second grader retorted that there was no such
thing as doing a bad thing for a good reason. The Giant did not go looking for
Jack. The boy had stolen all these important things that belonged to the Giant.
Stealing that Goose would be like someone breaking in your house and taking
your dog. The discussion became lively. When I used this same story for seventh
graders, one of the students pointed out that once Jack had procured the gold
he already had enough money to start a business that could make his family
comfortable forever. He went back, however, and took the Goose. With an endless
supply of golden eggs, why did Jack go back for a THIRD foray? GREED! Since
that time, I have used “Jack and the Beanstalk as a model story for introducing
Seminar with every age level. The discussions are always interesting and it is
amazing to watch students turn from pulling for Jack, who has been the
historical “good guy”, to empathizing somewhat with the Giant. As a culminating
activity, I have the students rewrite the story in the Giant’s perspective.
These kinds of assessments give me a much deeper understanding of their
comprehension than a traditional test might. As well, it does not hamper
students’ creativity or derail their interest in the book.
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