Today in class, we participated in a socratic seminar activity of Ramsay’s chapters 6 and 7. We have been doing a lot of similar activities in our other classes, such as the “fishbowl” discussion. Basically, they all have the common formation of an inner- and outer-circle. First, the members inner-circle have a discussion, but they are the only ones aloud to talk. When their discussion is over, the outer-circle is aloud to share any thoughts they acquired while watching the inner-circle’s discussion time. The outer circle might ask for clarifications, add personal experience, agree or disagree with statements, or raise new questions. I like these kinds of activities because they are a unique way to mix up the original, dull “discussion.” I think it is also interesting how only one group of students have the ability to talk at a time. Today, and in the past, there has been many moments when I was dying to open my mouth and contribute- but had to wait my turn!
We had effective discussions today in class; a lot of good points were made. The circle that was assigned chapter 6 made a lot of points regarding the combination of technology and cooperative learning. I think when it is possible for these two to work together, that is great! However, a statement was made that no teacher should have technology on their mind when they are first planning a lesson. Teachers must have a solid foundation and basis for their lesson before they can incorporate forms of technology for enhancement. I totally agree with this! Many times, technology is just a bonus, a fancy addition to an important topic. Sometimes it really enhances a lesson, sometimes it adds something mediocre. Other times, it can be completely terrible and cause mass confusion and chaos! That is why teachers need to first focus on the content, objectives, and lesson. Another thing they discussed was the use of PowerPoints; all of the group members agreed that they enjoy PowerPoints, but I must say that I disagree with that! While they have their purposes, PowerPoints can EASILY take a turn for the worse. Sometimes they are boring, sometimes they include too much information, sometimes teachers go through them too quickly, and sometimes they are just badly created. I thought it was interesting how much they supported the program.
I was in the circle that was assigned chapter 7. In our discussion, we talked about Ramsay’s “Oration Sensation” activity and evaluated its effectiveness. There were definitely mixed feelings regarding this project. Issues that were brought up were Skype, adolescent ability, comfort in front of peers, and flexibility. In my eyes, teachers should always be flexible with every lesson- always have a back up plan! When it comes to Skype, I think that is something that could be left out of the classroom. Like PowerPoint, it has its purposes; for example, a class could view a “guest speaker” through Skype. However, I really don’t feel like it is so effective to rely heavily on it in the classroom. I have stronger feelings about the other two major topics we discussed. First, Ramsay said that persuasive writing is difficult for adolescents to do. I can understand where she is coming from with her reasons, but I think with good modeling and teaching, they are very capable of producing a great persuasive piece. Also, utilizing writing workshops would help students realize any biases or evidence-lacking statements that they have in their papers. I believe middle school students could certainly do this type of paper. However, I do have a problem with the presentation of it. I strongly believe in public speaking activities, because that is an important skill. Performing a personal piece of work to strangers is something completely different. I do not have a problem with public speaking, but I don’t know how I would feel about sharing (or theatrically performing) something so intimate to a group of strangers. And I DEFINITELY know that as a middle school student, I would want no part in that. This is where Ramsay is making a mistake- she does not have alternate plans, options, or roles. I think it would make a group of middle school students happy if they wrote something and then performed it as a group, including a performer, recorder, manager, etc.
In terms of the writing itself, persuasive writing is one of my favorites! I will admit that even as an (almost) 21 year old, I think we all still have difficulty considering both sides of an argument sometimes 🙂