Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Classroom Participation - Leveling the Playing Field

Yesterday, I talked with my son about the classroom discussion regarding the assigned reading from "Grapes of Wrath," by Steinbeck. (He downloaded the book from Bookshare.org and reads it using Kurzweil 3000.) You see, although my son uses assistive technology to independently access the curriculum, he still struggles with demonstrating what he knows. Classroom participation? He prays he doesn't get called on and I don't think he was called on more than twice in last year's English class! This year, I'm not sure. He likes this English teacher better but Mel Levine's quote that I referenced on a previous blog, certainly applies here. (Avoiding humiliation at all costs.)

So, how do kids like my son participate in class discussions? How do we include all learners in thoughtful analysis and synthesis of material when they want to avoid humiliation? How do we provide a classroom environment that supports their need for more time to process the questions and think through their answers? Exchange of ideas is a crucial element in the learning process and these students are missing out on an important part of learning.

Did you say....use blogs? Of course!

This is just one more reason to employ blogging in the classroom because it offers a vehicle for involvement, participation and discussion for students who struggle with processing, executive functions, vocabulary, or are just shy and quiet. Blogs provide a forum for discussion by leveling the playing field - there are no teacher favorites, students have as much time as necessary to post their reponses, they can respond without interruption (or fear of humiliation) and they can use grade level vocabulary because they have time to process information. They can also use text-to-speech to edit their work prior to posting. This is an example of effective differentiated instruction.

Do teachers get that?


Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D said...

Hi Karen
You are right on target- great post!

Christopher Conway said...

Karen, I like your post alot and the spirit behind it. But I've had my students use blogs alot in my classes and it's a bit harder than I expected. Students have trouble understanding that a blog post is not an essay, so they stress themselves crazy and burn out easy. In the future, I think I will make blogs one alternative among others for students to pursue in class. I think self-selection might be important. I continue to experiment, however.

Karen Janowski said...

Brian and Chris,
Thanks for stopping by!
Christopher, is it possible for your students to blog outside of class and respond to each others' posts? That way it is a more connected and collaborative opportunity, experiences that are not typical in our classroom. It's not School 1.0 using Web 2.0 tools.
We have to offer a variety of methods of engagement and expression to support the diverse learning styles in our classrooms.
Please stop by again!