I’ve just been reading the latest Edutopia article to hit my inbox, “Avoiding the trap of Q and A Teaching,” by Petra Claflin. The article doesn’t apply to Storytelling lessons in all ways, because when we ask a story, we don’t know the answers to our questions. (Circling is a different ball of worms. There, traps apply.)
One of the suggestions in the Edutopia article is to let students try to solve or complete an exercise that the teacher is about to model. Students are more engaged when they know what they’re about to learn.
The suggestion resonated with me because of two recent experiences. First, Mira Canion and I are preparing a session for NTPRS on Can-Do statements and how using them can motivate students. They will serve as a pre-lesson exercise. Ask the class: “Can you tell someone about your hobbies?” They will learn that upcoming stories will develop their proficiency areas.
Second, I have just spent a lovely long weekend on Yukon Island doing Feldenkreis lessons with Gail French. These were movement exercises intended to help us walk with more energy. On the way, we explored knees, backs, breathing, and shoulders. Today was almost the best row of my life, because I figured out that a tracking exercise for my knee had solved a balance problem that I’ve been fighting all summer. But I digress. Gail started every lesson with a pre-test. We would stand, walk, squat, or breathe to find out what our bodies felt like in that position or movement before we started. Then we would do the lesson, and return to the test at the end to feel improvement.
During the past couple of years, an awkward frustration has seized me whenever I’ve used an Embedded Reading or even a story with new structures. The students often tell me that we needn’t have used the techniques because the reading or structures are “easy.” I threaten to give them the final version of a reading or story in advance so that they can see their improvement, but I never want to “scare” them to begin with. But maybe I should! Gail’s pre-tests didn’t scare me. They were just information. I looked forward to improvement. By the same token, if I don’t choose long readings or complex structures to begin with, maybe “pre-tests” will give those students who think I’m not rigorous enough a little more faith that lessons in my Russian classroom are directing them toward a goal.