I’ve blogged about how I consider my classes to be a set of experiences students can engage in (or not) based on their choosing. Recently, I wrote about how I am ok with letting things go in class if students decide to not engage in the experiences I set up. But today, as I planned for one of my classes, I realized how much control I was putting in the hands of my students as far as the quality of class is concerned.
The semester is winding down, and one of my classes will be considering how to help their own students engage with texts they find difficult to read. As I worked on developing the outline for this particular class, I designed three quests for my students to participate in. However, they key here is that they have to do the work before class.
I provided my students with directions for each quest (which I will share in a second). I also assigned XP to each quest. Finally, I created a table for each quest where students would sign-up to indicate they had participated in that quest and had something to share. Here are the quests:
Quest #1: What makes your students read/not read? If a text is difficult, why would they choose to persevere or not? Rather than guess, ask! Ask one student, two students, ten students, or more. It really doesn’t matter. You can have an in-depth discussion, create a short survey, or have an informal class discussion. Whatever you want. Come to class prepared to share what you learned from your students.
XP = 1000
Quest #2: How do you help your students navigate difficult texts? What strategies have you found to be successful? What questions do you have?
XP = 500
Note: Quest 2 is worth less because it just involves a student signing up and answering three questions in a brief manner.
Quest #3: Make a Linked Text Set. Create a linked text set based on the reading for this week. Your set should be diverse in terms of the types of texts it uses. You can use the text set to teach whatever concept you wish. Be prepared to share your set with us and walk us through your thinking.
XP = 2000 for a fully completed text set
XP = 1000 for a partially (in process) completed text set – let us help you!
Note: A Linked Text Set is a set of texts grouped around a particular theme or concept. The texts should be diverse. You might have a novel, videos, websites, etc…The term text is broadly defined.
So…the idea here is that my students see these quests a solid week in advance and then can sign up to participate in one or more. If they sign up, they should be prepared to discuss their ideas/work with the class.
Flying By the Seat of My Pants
Before we get to the part in class where we discuss the above quests, I have created some discussion questions for us to have on the larger topic for the week. However, you have to ask – what if no one signs up? That is a totally legitimate question and (technically) a very real possibility.
So I thought about it, and here’s what happens if no one signs up:
The quality of the class is less than it could have been.
For real. Seriously. I cannot make anyone sign up or do the work. I stand by my belief that class is what we make of it together. I do everything I can to make it a great experience, but I can only do so much.
What will I do if no one signs up? Well, I don’t really know. I suppose I will point out that no one signed up and ask them what it is they would like to do with the remainder of class.
But, I do believe that class will be better when people have the opportunity to contribute. And I do believe it is my responsibility to help craft relevant ways for those contributions. And if I really believe all those things, then there are going to be times when I have to completely and totally let go and see what happens.