Friday, March 1, 2013

Student Style

This is slice 1 of 31 for the 6th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge
which starts today! Join us! Find details at Two Writing Teachers.

I vowed to hold my tongue during Socratic Circle yesterday. Students were going to discuss the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Their texts: an assignment sheet , an evaluation sheet, and an A to Z slice post.

"I am confident that you can answer each others' questions and generate conversation about the challenge," I said. "You have the information in your hands. I will even cover my mouth, so I do not speak."

I talk too much, sometimes. I try not to blurt out a question or add a comment during students' Socratic Circle discussions, but sometimes I get excited. I blurt. I question. I pose. I react. Never more than twice, but still. I'm trying to get it down to zero. I will frame the exercise and facilitate the debrief, adding clarifications if needed once it's done, but I want students' to own the talk.

Own it they did. A student I'll call Z opened today's conversation with this question: "What's inappropriate in terms of topics? I ask because you all said we can write about anything and I've been thinking of an acronym, but I wonder if it's inappropriate."

"An acronym for what?" another student replied.

"Well, I've been thinking that we must Post Every Night In Style.... you know it's going to be difficult and that's just the tip of it. I imagine about half-way through the challenge,  it's going to get hard," Z smirked with a straight face.

Did I mention these are ninth graders? Can you imagine my face? I really had to hold my left hand over my mouth. My eyebrows merged with my hairline. I feared my face would freeze, eyes-wide-open. The circle cracked up as the puns continued. I wanted to react.

I didn't. I waited and listened. I love that my students felt confident (and safe) enough to test the boundaries with me and their peers (especially after my vow). I did manage to stay quiet. The students moved on from their hilarity within two minutes or so. They had a good laugh. It brought them together as a group. Most  thought that Z should write the post but not spell it out for readers. Others weren't sure it would be appropriate for a school audience, especially if they are younger than we are.

I thought that was a good point and wondered, silently, if we should mark or code such posts (or sort students' slices into elementary, middle and high schools).

After the discussion, I told the group (and the student) to take posts they question to their parents. If their parents would okay the writing, if they are not embarrassed or ashamed to read it to their parents face-to-face, they might consider writing it for school. They might be able to blog it. I reminded students to use their families and their values (and the student code of conduct) as a guide. Know your audience. Respect it.

That boy, Z? To him, I recommended he read Alan Sitomer's  The Downside of Being Up


  1. LOL! Z cracked me up. And Alan's book - hilarious. I can totally picture your face as your hand was clamped over your mouth. :)

  2. Lee Ann, I'm so impressed you are doing this with your freshmen. I chickened out with mine. Now I'm rethinking it. Maybe.... I love how you set this up for them. Maybe....

    1. Thank you, Deb. I think I'm still in shock over doing the challenge with all of my students (freshmen and a class of juniors-about 145 students). It was fun and not too difficult to manage with 60 students last year, but 145 is trickier. We'll learn from it, to be sure.

  3. I'm most impressed that you kept your vow! It's so hard for me to be quiet sometimes! Good for you and your students!


  4. I must admit that I had to go back and reread after you wrote that you had to cover your mouth with your hand. I'm afraid I wouldn't have been able to avoid cracking up. I'm still chuckling and trying to imagine what some of the other puns might have been. Given their sense of humour, I'm sure your students' slices this month will be quite entertaining.

  5. I imagine that my fact would have looked just like yours! (Actually, I think it did as I was reading this!) I'm sure my face would have turned bright red, which is a fault of mine. I love that they were able to have a good laugh and move on though -- that really speaks to the classroom community you have developed! Good luck with the challenge; I'm looking forward to connecting our students!

  6. It is truly these small moments that we carry with us as we move on through teaching -- the little interactions, the moments of humor and (sometimes suppressed, sometimes not) laughter, the moments where your inner self-talk is "really? did that seriously just happen?". Sounds like your teacher instincts and reactions were dead-on in this situation!

  7. Funny. In fact, I read it out loud to my husband. He thought it was funny too.

    I'm glad you saw this as a compliment to the community you've created and the kind of teacher you are -- one who listens and empowers.

    Thanks for sharing with us.