Friday, September 5, 2014

Focus on Lab: Class Pictures

I'm posting two semi-random pics of one of my classes. Semi-random because folks seemed to have a sixth sense about whenever I was just about to snap the photo.  These were shot during the hour-long lab we have once a week, our third the semester.

Today's project was two-fold. Trios of students had to create and share a blank Google Doc with each other in anticipation of their homework assignment: a pre-writing activity for their first formal composition. Several students, already proficient with Drive, moved about the room helping classmates learn how to use Google. Some trios sat and tried to figure out Google Drive on their own. The students chatting in the center of the picture were already  - hopefully! - sharing some of their ideas for their first essay - a literacy narrative. 

The second task was to work with the "ABC" group to complete a shared Google Presentation. We started this program the first week of class, swapping the content of our syllabus into a completely different genre: an ABC book. Basically, we hacked a familiar genre to get students to manipulate and prioritize the content of the syllabus into something they could give to anyone who wanted to know what we do in class. Some of the conversations you see here are students debating whether they should use the letter "A" for "Attendance Policies" or for "Aronson, your professor". Moreover, they are discovering the difference between accuracy and precision. Though it is accurate to say something like, "'B' is for the book you need to buy", a more precise statement for our classroom would read read, "'B' is the the books you'll need: The New Jim Crow, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking

If you haven't guessed, I've devoted the first couple labs to getting acquainted with Google Drive. A big goal for this semester is to use digital tech to compose and revise texts, and to allow for synchronous and asynchronous commenting and feedback. I want to leverage digital media to enhance the writing process.  

If it looks like students were engaged, they were. I'd venture a guess that the "work/socializing" ratio approached 80% time-on-task and 20% time-socializing. 

And with the exception of the two "posers" in the second picture, students were focused on each other or their projects - not me! I'm gaining enough confidence with my skills enough faith in students that I don't have to be front and center the entire class period. I make a few announcements, provide a few general goals and targeted instruction, and then allow students to do what they need to do. Lab should be primarily be actual writing situations - either solo in collaboration - so here is where I do my best to allot the entire period to writing, allowing students the autonomy to do what they think is in their best interest. 

Where was I when not snapping pics? Providing individual instruction . Answering and posing questions. Basically, giving direct face-time with students, thinking together with them as they were manipulating, evaluating, and prioritizing ideas. 

Even though "what I love about teaching" was the theme of yesterday's post, these pictures compel me to add more sweetness to that "baker's dozen":

1) Seeing students smile and work with each other, building community.

2) Observing students in deep conversation about the task at hand - with minimal intervention from me!  

3) Noticing students' eyes glued to their screens, biting their lips, furrowing their eyebrows as they concentrate on their next paragraph, next sentence, next word. 

4) Getting to have face-time, either one-on-one or in small groups, with practically everyone in the class to work on what they needed to work on

5) Seeing the whole class productive, students selecting what they individually believe is important for themselves to accomplish during our time together. 

Woo hoo! These first few weeks have  been great. Students are engaged - with the content and with each other. Perhaps its simply the honeymoon phase, people (including me!) putting our best foot forward.  But somehow, given the level of trusts my students give me and my approach to teaching, I suspect there will be more and more goodness to come this semester.