I loved the article by Metzger on the Socratic Seminar format that she used in her classroom. I loved it because, aside from teaching algebra, my favorite thing to do as a sub was read with kids and talk about what we had read. And one of my favorite things to do as an adult is consume, analyze, and talk about stuff. Case in point, the number of text messages flying back and forth between my cousin and me after he lent me his copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer this summer. My most memorable learning experiences as a student and a human have been in a Socratic setting.
What I do not love are the book club discussion questions that seem to be occurring more and more frequently in the backs of books. What unimaginative, uninteresting questions! If you’re going to have a book club, at least go the extra step of requiring people to articulate a thought or question for discussion based on their own reading and not someone else’s. This is what Metzger finds, too, when she notices how she derails conversation when she attempts to direct the discussion. This is also what I found as a sub. Frequently, teachers have some kind of prepared list of questions that they ask at the end of a reading, and these questions were invariably the least interesting part of talking with the kids about their experiences with the text.
I’ve been away at a conference for the last few days, and here’s a short list of things I noticed:
- When you aren’t prepared for a presentation, people notice. They especially notice when you make a point of telling them how last minute your preparation for the presentation is.
- There are few things more boring than listening to someone read a presentation word-for-word off a sheet of paper. Or, as is more frequently the case, multiple sheets of paper.
- The best, most effective presentations are well thought out but leave lots of room for interaction.
So, here’s what I’m saying, and this relates to the Metzger article as well as my work experience and conference experience: Plan, prepare, think, and then just let go. Don’t be afraid. You need to leave room for the awesome to happen.