Friday, April 18, 2008

1984: Kids Teaching Kids

During our reading and study of George Orwell’s 1984, Maura and I challenged our students with teaching one another the novel rather than us leading the class. We provided a calendar for them of the dates they could lead as well as a few simple requirements that they would be assessed by:

Syllabus: they needed to turn in a syllabus/ lesson plan of how they planned to lead the class with a clear outline, the assigned home work , as well as post their plans for the class to see.
Quiz: the teaching students were to create a quiz for their peers. The quiz could take any format. The teachers for that day graded the quizzes they had created.
Discussion: the teaching students determined the activity for the class period. We talked previously about making sure the teaching activities weren’t repetitive of another groups and was a meaningful activity.
Blog question: the teaching students were to post a blog question after class to either continue the conversation or extend the conversation on topics discussed in class. The teaching students assessed the blog responses.

Letting go of the control of what is going to happen on their teaching days in class is always an interesting feeling. Some days I walk away thinking, these kids are built to be teachers- they are so creative. We have had simulation activities where we are Winston or Julia and the leading group is Big Brother. There have been activities where we are split into discussion groups and asked to only answer the questions thinking of ourselves as Julia, Winston, Big Brother, or O’Brien. We have created posters, had small group discussions, and so much more. Then there are other days where I feel like this is simply a chance for them to play games in class (insert Daniel Pink-“When you are playful, you are activating the right side of your brain.”). I don’t mind the games, but what I seem to want is more from them on those days. A game is purposeful if it pushes their thinking, if it makes them question, collaborate and analyze, but too many of their games seem to be just that. (the kid in me is saying, “Why is it bad to have a little of both?”). I guess what I am getting at is not only the game playing but something Maura and I have been noticing about their teaching days.

Let me digress…All through our study of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind, the kids talked incessantly about the need to change educations so that weren’t asked to simply memorize and regurgitate information. They wanted to be in charge of their learning so that they could make deep connections. So, what has really surprised both Maura and myself is that the quizzes that the kids are creating and the game/ activities that they kids are implementing are simply asking the kids to regurgitate information. This is what they told us time and again they disliked about education and learning, but then when they are given the chance to change education, to be in charge of their own learning as well as their peers, they fall back to multiple choice quizzes. I just don’t get it.

On a positive note, I have seen some incredible teaching. I have seen kids create discussions and be leaders in the class. The kids in turn have seen how difficult it is to create a valid assessment.

I am going to ask them to reflect on this post as well as the experience itself:
I want to know what they got out of this learning experience versus me teaching them.
I want to know about their assessments (quizzes) and see why they chose to go the route of regurgitation.
I want to know about the collaboration in the groups to put together their teaching day. Was it difficult to get together? Did you have enough planning time? How did you do your planning?
I want to know what suggestions they would have for doing this again.


As with everything, it is always a learning experience and I wouldn’t trade teaching these kids for anything. They are becoming professional learners and leaders. I am so proud of them.

46 comments:

markg said...

When we read 1984 Mrs.Smith did not teach us anything. She did not even tell us what was going to be on our quizzes or anything. This is because our peers were the ones teaching us. They made the quizzes, the activity, and told us what we were going to read and learn about. This was really different form everything else we have done in this class. The one thing that i learned is that writing a quiz is really hard, especially writing a really good question. I think that i would definitely do it again.

maddief said...

Something that I have gained from this experience is a sense of independence. I was the one who had to teach other students, and it made me feel really responsible. Since I want to be a teacher when I grow up, this was a really good experience for me. However, I felt like we didn't have enough time to collaborate and decide what to do as a group. Our presentation felt very rushed and I don't think we had enough planning time. I thought that the presentation went well though, and I enjoyed the fishbowl discussions that we had.

Lukez said...

For the first question, I thought that it was really cool getting to have other students in the class teach us. I thougt that they knew exactly what would be the most fun because most of the in class activities were similar to the ones that we had already done. So they knew exactly which ones were going to be fun to change a little bit and do for this book. For our quiz I thought that we had it a lot easier then some of the other groups. Since we had the first section of the book, our group really only had to cover the most basic aspects of the book. Then again, we also had the least amount of time to plan for the quiz. This balanced it out for us, we didn't have to do as hard of a quiz but we had less time to plan for it.

Louiseb said...

I thought that peer teaching was a really good approach to learning about 1984. Because of this I have a much greater appreciation for my teachers because writing quizes and keeping everyone in the class caught up and on track is a lot harder that I had imagined that it would be. Finding an activity that allows kids to be creative and to learn at the same time is a really difficult task and I think that the students did a really good job of taking advantage of their planning time to come up with good activities for the class to do.

SerenaL said...

I learned a lot in our unit studying 1984. I liked having classmates as teachers because the teaching style was different each day. It was more exciting and different, not that the regular teaching is, but it is definitely nice to have some variety.
I think we used the normal regurgitation of information quiz style because none of us have ever taught before, and it is easier to grade facts rather then someone's opinion. Also, a quiz on strictly facts proves if people actually did the reading they were supposed to.
It was simple to get a long with my group members. I knew all of them so it was fun as well as educational. We all have different strengths so if someone got stuck on how to phrase something or how to get a point across, one of the other group members would have an idea. Teaching with a group was fun and more comfortable then it would have been teaching alone, with the whole class staring at you.
If there's anything I would change, it would be to give a little more planning time. I felt sort of rushed putting everything together, and more time would have given a chance to involve more creativity.

josed said...

I really think I learned more through the student teacher method. We did so many varied things that I really got to enjoy doing the things my classmates planned. I think we did multiple choice tests since that's the only quiz we know how to make; when I suggested doing a single essay question for a quiz, my group said people would hate us. However, I do think we should have more time to plan our classes, because teaching these classes was ,ironically, a learning process. People took the example of those who came before them, and each presentation got better the further on they went. My group did all the planning in class, which might account for some lost points. We should get more planning time, to perfect our ideas. Personally, I think this is an enriching experience, but you need to give us more planning time.

alexd said...

I really enjoyed peer teaching for 1984. It was a totally different experience than anything else we have ever done. I thought that it was going to be really easy to lead the class for a whole period. I realized that it takes a lot more effort than I thought. Our group went last and it was hard to find a creative way to teach the class after everyone had already gone. It was hard to keep it original and still have it be interesting for the other students. As for regurgitating the information for the quiz, I just wanted to get the quiz done quick so we could have more time to do the project. I really enjoyed this learning experience because it taught me a lot about being creative. It also gave me a lot more respect for Mrs. Smith because it was really hard to teach the class.

chelseas said...

I really liked being able to teach our class about 1984. We really were able to use our own creativity, and we could create our own lesson plans. It really showed us what the teachers go through to plan their daily lessons. We also were able to see how hard it is to create a quiz that others can understand, and that everyone agrees with the answer that you arrived with. I thought that this was a fun way to share different parts of the book. This way, each group was able to discuss the parts of the book that they thought were the most important. Each group had a different approach to the book, and we all learned the same bsic information. We always had a quiz, and some sort of discussion-some people chose to make posters, some had actual discussions, and other things. I think that this experience gave us a lot of independence, but also a lot of responsibility at the same time. I think that this was a fantastic experience, and I would definitely do it again if I had the chance.

BrianC said...

I think that having the students teach was an interesting experience though I must say I like the teacher teaching more then having the students teach. I did think we had enough time it just wasn't used very well which ended with sort-of a confusing discussion. This might be because most students don't like to be taught by their peers.
As for the quizzes, I think we did regurgitation rather then an essay or something because that is the easiest kind to grade and doesn't take much effort to make. But if we did get more time to work on it, I still think we would have done a regurgitation test rather then something more creative.
Some suggestions I have would be to give a more detailed outline to the groups so the groups don't all to simular things. After the second or third time, finding a bunch of pictures and presenting them then discussing the book got seemed really pointless. So, for future classes, I would suggest you give each group a different way to present and teach.

phoebef said...

I gained a lot from this experience but I think the thing the stood out the most for me was the way students work harder when it’s their peers judging them instead of a teacher or other administrator. There were two extremes to the presentations, the ones that were easy and creative, and the ones that were difficult and made you really think. The first type was made so that not only would it be easy to make, but also easy to complete. That is what the presenters would want their class to be like. The other type was much more challenging, and almost seemed that the group wanted to be more in control of the group. By making the presentations, the presenters had to examine how they would like to be taught, and then get past the challenge of putting it together. We not only learned about the book itself, but also learned how we like to learn whether it was a subconscious learning or not.

nicolek said...

I think that for this activity, the reason we all chose the route of regurgitation because we didn't know how else to teach. We do what we see and for the most part of our lives, that's how we've been taught. And when we finally got the opportunity to take control of our learning and really do what we had been talking about the whole year, i guess we ran scared and didn't take advantage of it. We all just kind of blew it off because we didn't know how to really make the change we had all been taking about and now I finally understand how the teachers feel. They resort to regurgitation because they don't want to give their students a really indepth activity and have the students fail or not understand it. I think that I would like to do this activity again, but this time I would take more advantage of it

caitlina said...

I enjoyed this opportunity to teach the class. Coming up with the lesson plan was harder than we expected, especially coming up with a creative idea that was different than the other groups' lesson plans.
To answer your question about going back to multiple choice quizzes, I think that we chose the multiple choice quizzes because it was an easy option. And the students taking the quiz seemed to enjoy the easy opportunity to pass a test. Just use process of elimination, and soon the right answer is in sight.
I think everyone had enough planning time, especially the in class time. I just think that the reason why we took the easy route, it was because we didn't have enough time to put together the quiz at home.
My favorite part of the group was the discussion, and the time for creative expression. Once the groups finallly got a feel for what we were doing, I think that the creativity level was raised. Soon we were doing much more creative projects, like collages and posters, instead of just talking about the book. I enjoyed it when this level was raised, and a new exciting project was put forth. Overall it was a fun project, and I wouldn't mind doing it again.

amyw said...

This was a great experience. Teaching my classmates helped me to have a greater knowledge of the information. And each group that taught us had a different teaching style, so it was a good experience to learn about 1984 in different ways. Some of the groups had us learn in a creative way, some of them had us learn by discussing...
On the quizzes, not every question had regurgitation; some of the questions were meant to provoke thought and get us to analyze the novel on a deeper level. But writing quizzes is difficult for people that aren't used to it, which is why some of the questions involved regurgitation.
I actually don't think that we had enough time in class to prepare for the teaching presentations. Also, when we signed up for the date that we were presenting, it was likely that we hadn't read the assigned pages that we were supposed to teach. But as the book progressed, we had read the pages that we were assigned, but didn't have any more time in class to prepare. So my only suggestion would be to give next years' classes more time in class (after they've read their pages) to work on their presentations.
Overall this was a great experience!!!

NickB said...

When Ms. Smith assigned this "project" so to speak, I was psyched to do something creative. As planning started, however, our group realized that we didn't have much time to spare over a class project like this. We all seemed to have a decent amount of homework, and could only spare a small amount of time over the two days we had to prepare. This is the main reason we went with a regurgitation quiz, it was quick and easy to do, and we didn't have much time to spare. If we could do this again, I think I would like a little more time to create/plan.

KatherineM said...

Having students take over the classroom activities was a new and interesting experience. I liked how the class was taught a little bit differently each day. I think we went the route of regurgitation on the quizzes, because those kinds of questions are easier to write and easier to grade. Also, we used our discussion time to tackle more "deep" questions. I also would have to say that the planning was a little rushed, and a bit more time might've been helpful.

ashleyf said...

In this whole 1984 unit, i found that i learned much more than if just one teacher had taught us. In the last unit, it was all very routine and every friday we would have a discussion about the last chapter. But for 1984, every group of students had a different take on what a good way to learn more about a certain number of pages. A lot of people had the same ideas on what to do for their pages, yet everyone did it in their own ways. The people in our class are all people who want to learn and want to help others, so kids teaching kids was a very effective way of learning.
Along with that, the book 1984 is all about what the future may be. And as students, that is what our educational career is about, the future. We learn so we can succeed in the years to come. So, students can pick what they wanted from the book to focus on in thier day of teaching.

jordanh said...

I had a good time witht the 1984 unit. I really liked to see how different groups decided to teach. Most groups had a discussion- based ativity. I was really sad when a group before us presented and they followed the same format as we had planned on. So, we had to change our ideas, and change our format. But, I think that we ended up doing well, and I was proud of how it all went down. As far as the quiz goes, I think that we followed aa regurgetation format because
A. It was really hard to think of something differnet then that since that regurgetation is mainly what we have been exposed to.
B. Once one group diid that, we all did that. It was just goose stepping.

All in all, I learned a lot from this project, and it was a lot of fun, too.

morgant said...

I really liked this experience. I liked the whole peers teaching peers thing. It was definitely a new experience and I loved it. I think the reason most of us did regurgitation quizzes was because we wanted to make sure everyone else was understanding the information and processing it. I don't think it was just for the sake of regurgitation, because, heaven knows, all of us dislike with great intensity regurgitation. This book was confusing to understand at times but I think the quizzes were just for our benefit. I would most definitely do this again!

ParkerH said...

I want to know what they got out of this learning experience versus me teaching them.
I want to know about their assessments (quizzes) and see why they chose to go the route of regurgitation.
I want to know about the collaboration in the groups to put together their teaching day. Was it difficult to get together? Did you have enough planning time? How did you do your planning?
I want to know what suggestions they would have for doing this again.

It was interesting to have other students teach the lessons, but some times the inexperience of students teaching (go figure) sometimes shows itself. For instance, what may seem like a good idea to may not seem like a good one to someone who has done more teaching, and knows some things about teaching. There were some very good lessons, but having the set criteria hurt a little. You can only do so much within given guidelines.

Personally, followed the example of the previous group when I made my quiz. I've never been great at coming up with super-amazing brand-new material, and I sort of stole that first group's idea. I'm guessing that the people after the first group and my group, seeing that the first two did quizes like we did, followed our example. So for better of worse, we kind of grouped together in that. It also seems easier to make and to take.

As for planning, it was Ok. The first groups didn't have much time, and so it was kind of hard to do. I don't know how well it would have been if my group had gone first. A little more planning time could have been better. But for the actual planning, it was pretty good. We divided up the work, with some people doing some things and others doing other things. This seemed to work pretty well, as long as the group collaborated as a whole often.

I didn't like the guidelines that much, which is weird for me. It limited time for the fun and learning parts of the time, because there had to be a quiz. The quizes were very hard, and even though they weren't supposed to be, they were. Also, since we didn't have group fishbowls like we had done in previous units, it was hard to get some of the information. Fishbowls were great to bring people onto the same page, and it is hard to know what the current group thinks is important in the reading. I remembered things they didn't put on there, and they put on things I hardly knew about, even though we read the same text. I always loved fishbowls, and I know some people don't as much, it helped my learn things. The activities when you get vaporized and such didn't really help me. Some of them were fun, but if we are trying to learn the book, playing "1984 pyramid" or whatever doesn't really do anything for me, and it hurts later when I get quizzed on it.

lesliel said...

Though teaching the class was fun, I did not have the same feeling that I have at the end of books read in class. I usually feel as if we have gone deep into the meaning of the book, but because none of the groups did an actual fishbowl, we were never really digging down. I usually like having fishbowls during books so that I can see other people's points of veiws and find a deeper meaning in what we are reading. I did not feel as if we broke the code of 1984 like we do with other books. On the other hand, I saw my classmates teach the class and I saw them pick out what they thought was important in the section. I saw that the groups did not want to do the normal fishbowl and go above and beyond what was expected. Perhaps it was because of this desire that the deep meaning of the book was not discussed, and further, the quizes were a regurgitation. Since we did not discuss it in the first place may be why the quizes were simply regurgitation.
I really liked being able to teach the class and I had a great time doing it. I realized how much effort is put into just one lesson plan. My group had to meet at 6:30 at Starbucks one morning to plan, but it all payed off in the end. Our presentation went really well and the class really enjoyed it. It was not hard to put together one day of class because eveyone in my group did their part which contributed to a great overall result.

whitneys said...

I personally really enjoyed this learning experience of the students have control over the classroom and what we taught. Yet I have to agree with Ms. Smith, sometimes it seemed as though us as students were trying to make it easier for each other, because we were all exhausted.
On a more personal level, I feel like I learned the book so much better when I had to teach part of it. When I had to teach my section, I had to break it down and find out what was important. Ms. Smith did not direct us in any way, it was all on us. This was very invigorating for me personally, because I got to pin point the ideas I deemed important and guided my classmates to make the same connections. As far as the other groups presenting, I feel like we did not discuss the book as much. This was probably because each group was trying to find something new and unique to bring to the class. I missed the discussion, because there seemed to be so much that we never discovered about the book due to that lack of discussion.
With the quizzes, my group chose to do a little of regurgitation and critical thinking. The only problem we had with this form, is the critical thinking questions were not answered as thoroughly or as deeply as I would have hoped. Even though we do call for more critical thinking quizzes instead of just regurgitation, I do not think we commit ourselves to the extra work it requires.
As far as getting together, my group met a few times in class and once outside of class. It was a little stressful, yet when we made the time, we got everything done. Although we were all very busy, I was fortunate because everyone in my group were hard workers and were willing to take the extra time outside of school. Due to this, I feel like our presentation was very well prepared and effective.
I really enjoyed control over learning 1984. I think as students would should have applied ourselves more to challenging each other and to really dissect the book. For next year, I would suggest that there be a requirement for discussion. Otherwise, give the students the same opportunity.

ZachH said...

I agree with Ms. Smith 100%. I noticed the exact same thing about the multiple choice and regurgiation even though we convinced ourselves just a month earlier that we didn't like this sort of thing.

I think it may come down to a few things. We ourselves may not like it, but since we didn't have to take our own quiz, we didn't really mind making it multiple choice. This sounds really bad when I think about it and I don't nesscessarily think it is completly true. But at the same time, i think it is very possible that we weren't considering how we would feel if we were taking our own quiz. Every group claimed their quiz was the easiest but no one seemed to be any easier than another. In reality though, I think we were really falling back on multiple choice since it has become so much of what we are used to. We say that we don't like the left brained, but we don't get exposed to any right brained. Now that I think about it, the only form of r-brained testing that I can come up with is an essay. When I suggested and essay to my group, they (and several groups around us) simply groaned and rolled their eyes. Some of the kids in my class were really adament after reading AWNM that learning had to change. But so many of these kids were determined to make their quizzes challenging. I really don't understand all of this and I don't think I'll be able to work it out in this comment, but I really do think that we let our r-brains down on this assignment and we were very hypocritcal to what we claimed just a short month ago we wanted.

Aside from that, this expierence was really great and a lot of fun. My group showed a few scenes from the movie of 1984. I had come up with this idea since we often use it at the middle school youth group that I help teach (we will rent a movie that illustrates a biblical theme and try to use it to further understanding. This time it worked out that there was a movie of 1984 that we could use to further understanding.) One other group member prepared some discussion questions about the movie with me while the third wrote the quiz (which turned out to multiple choice.) If we had any questions for our group members, we exchanged e-mail addresses and we would just drop each other a note. We actually only talked about our plan twice in class and the rest was all via e-mail. In the end, the class was pretty much split fifty-fifty between liking the movie and disliking it. Some of them felt that it added a lot and it gave them the oppritunity to see another interpertation of the story. Others felt that it distracted from the way they had pictured things. I think it was a unique way to present the information and started a good discussion about important elements in the book.

I enjoyed being able to teach the class. Like I mentioned before, I've been teaching the middle school youth group at my church for two years now and it is always fun to lead someone to have one of those great "ah-ha" moments. I hope I get a chance to try this again. If I do, I would certainly like to handle the quizzes a little bit differently.

alexf said...

Honestly, I feel that I got a lot out of this learning experience versus Ms. Smith teaching us. (Not to say that I don’t enjoy it when Ms. Smith teaches us ) Anyways, I really think that because the students taught the class, we could connect on a better level. I say this because they thought up activities that they knew the class would like (again, this is no offense to Ms. Smith). They could relate to how I interpreted the book and teach us other interpretations of which we could all relate to our lives today.

As for the quizzes, I feel like the reason that we chose the route of regurgitation was to make sure that we understood and read everything important. The quizzes actually helped me make sure that I was completely reading and comprehending everything of that chapter. Also, I do believe that there were thoughtful questions on every quiz that took opinions and different thoughts that people had. I would say that about half of the quiz would be regurgitation and the other half would be critical analysis.

As for the collaboration, my group had a “special” case. The weekend just before we were to present, I was in Texas. It was a little difficult to communicate properly because I was always busy, but in the end we all worked it out and I felt like we had a good presentation. We split the work up evenly so that not one person was working harder than another. We mostly used the computer to send e-mails back and forth to communicate.

Some suggestions for doing this again would just be to shorten the reading so that we could focus on certain parts at a time. Also, for the groups, I would just say to mix it up a little and really have fun teaching the class in a whole new way!

maddisonm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maddisonm said...

I thought 1984 was a really fun unit, and I think it was so much fun because we all got to teach each other and create the activities. I feel like I understood the basics of the book, however I know for a fact that I did not dig deeper in this book. I did not try and find the hidden meanings and I know I did not get as much out of the book as I could have. I think the reason for this is because I did not have to. Yes. I loved the teaching experience and looked forward to see what each group would do, but at the same time I think 1984 has so much hidden meaning that we did not even begin to touch on.
As far as the quizzes go, I think that all the groups did a good job on making sure we were reading the book and understanding the main concepts. I enjoyed having quizzes from students because it kept me in check; I used the quizzes to make sure that I was getting the main ideas out of that section of reading. It was a nice break not to have to be looking for every little detail in the book, and more focusing on the big picture. However, if that is how the quizzes are going to be, we just needed to pick up the in depth thought in a discussion, which is fine with me, but I don’t think any group did that so well.
For the groups, I think that we had a good amount of time and we used our time wisely. One of our group members was in Texas during the time of planning, but that did not affect us, thanks to technology!!! Even though it would have been easier to plan with our whole group there, I felt that since we were so organized, it all worked out. For our group we had a basic plan and then got together one night and just put it all together. I think it worked out really well!
If we were to do this again I think Ms. Smith could meet with the groups just to make sure they are getting everything out of the pages and Ms. Smith could help us with her expertise!
Overall, I think that experience was great! Besides the minor problems, I would definitely want to do it again!

maddisonm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
maddisonm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
catem said...

Although some would argue against students teaching other students, I think that it helped the students learn even better. By enabling the students to teach, I think that it helped the student understand the book as it applies to their life, instead of being first told and encouraged to share the teacher’s point of view. I also feel that doing this helped us get a better grasp on how exactly to teach a class in a “Pinker” kind of way. Yes, each group had its own share of mistakes, but it was our first time ever truly teaching other students. Everyone was just trying to make a fun, yet educating class period; however, some groups had too much fun, and others had too much straight regurgitational education. I think if we had a second chance to do it again I think we would be able to work out the kinks.

As for the quizzes, I think that making a quiz that does a good job of covering the information is really tough. If one has too many open ended questions, then you can only grade on participation. On the other hand, if one has a quiz of pure detail orientated multiple choice questions, it teaches nothing. Everything is about balance, and overall I think it was pretty balanced. Most of the quizzes were half multiple choice, and half short to mid-length answer questions. I think this proved that the students read the information, and also really understood it.

When it came time for collaboration, my group just took the time given in class, and came up with a basic plan. Then, on a weekend we just got together and covered specifics. One of our group members was in a volleyball tournament in Texas, so we just e-mailed her, and had her do her part. Although the emailing worked just fine, I still find that when it comes to group collaboration that meeting face to face is the easiest.

Overall, I think that we did really well for being entirely responsible for a whole unit, with only basic guide lines from our teacher. We all had some mistakes, but I think that for our first time, everyone did very, very, well.

Tylerg! said...

I have learned to use time wisely so the teacher will give us opportunity more often. The more trust a student can build with a teacher the better the teacher will feel doing it again. I also learned the pain and hardness of grading on a quiz. It gets really boring and i feel for my teacher.

melissaz said...

To tell you the truth, when we were first assigned this project to teach the class I was so over-whelmed with the thought of having to come up with EVERYTHING. I don't know if there has ever been a time that I, as a student, has had to create a total lesson plan with everything. But I do think that this experiance has been such a great learning opportunity. I have to agree that some days were more helpful than others, and some where more fun than others, but it helped a lot. I have always learned that if you can teach something, you really understand the material. I would not want to create a lesson plan for every unit; it is a lot of work, but sometimes it can be very helpful.

On the quiz issue, I think the reason we returned to the old quiz ways is because we were trying to follow the regular class structure. We had just a little time, and we were thinking that we had to some way follow the regular quiz structure to see if they really understood their reading. Really, I felt that we needed to in some way follow a regular quiz structure to find out how everyone understood what they read. We only did 8 of the regular types of questions, but then we tried to take some big thinking questions that the students could pick from so that they could talk about some question that they were interested them with some structure.

For the future, I would suggest giving the students a little more time in class. We used a wiki to collect all our information and with the class time we managed to get it all ready; but it would be a little easier to have maybe one more class period to get together. But overall it was a great learning experiance. I hope Ms.Smith you weren't dissapointed with the results!

stefo said...

This was a very interesting experience for me. I've read 1984 before and it is a really important book for everyone to read in my opinion. I don't think that my class reached its full potential in this book. I have seen what we are capable of and it didn't really come across in this unit. Maybe this is just me. From a student's perspective, I noticed during group activities that most students fell back on doing minimum work and chatting with friends. (including myself) The laptops also became a distraction as well. A lot of the project ideas were great (sometimes repetitive) but there were times when we did not rise to the challenge. Mrs. Smith, I have to give you props. Writing quizzes, keeping students focused, and coming up with interesting lesson plans is hard-work and my respect for you doubled. Tripled!! This is really sad to me but I think my class needs more teacher influence. It looks like not many people agree with me but that's how I feel

morganw said...

Honestly, I don't feel like I understand the book. We didn't do a deep study of it. It was just like usual education. Part of the problem, I think, was that the people who were teaching us (our peers) did not really understand the book either, nor had they ever been taught it. It was definitely as interesting experience, trying to prepare a group presentation and bring up meaningful conversation about the book, but it just didn't do it for me. I wanted to be taught by Smith - I didn't want to do any of the “memorize and regurgitate” stuff that we ended up doing. I didn't do so well on some of the quizzes mainly because I don't read books to remember that details in them, I read them to try to understand them. I also never felt like we had enough time to discuss and whenever a really good discussion would come up, we'd run out of time and have to stop it. Yes, we could have posted it on the blog and blogged about it, but frankly, I was busier than I've ever been in my life during this unit and I could barely find enough time to catch 6 hours of sleep every night, let alone trying to do extra work.

That kind of ties into my teaching experience. I wanted to do something really cool and come up with a good project for the kids to do to help them better understand the book, but it was so hard to get our group together. In fact, we never once met outside of school. We were all so busy that we mainly just communicated in class and on our wikispace. We ended up settling for one of our less-favorable options for our teaching activity instead of doing something a lot cooler. Our whole group wasn't able to collaborate on making the quiz, so it ended up being full of really ridiculous, mind-numbing questions. I felt bad for the people who had to take it.

Also, the way our group was set up, I felt like I wasn't able to contribute enough. I wasn't able to help with the discussion or game or quiz to the extent I would have liked because the things I took time to prepare were seen as "not-fitting" for what we were doing and thrown out. A couple of the group members took over things at the end and didn't tell us others the change in plans till the day before we presented. Again, I felt helpless. Our group communication on this project was not very good.

I'm probably sounding really pessimistic, and I did learn some stuff about the book, it just wasn't as much as I wanted to learn. Some of the groups had really well put-together simulations and some of their blog and discussion questions were great. I guess my advice for Smith, if she's going to do this again next year, would be to tell the kids to take the time to really make deep-thinking questions and to put as much work into creating a good lesson as they would any one of her assignments (For example; the relationship charts for The Chosen, or the Brain assignments for Fahrenheit 451).

hannahl said...

Well... let me just start off by saying that I was unfortunately one of those game groups. I feel like I let myself down in that part of the day. We worked so hard to be completely creative that I think we missed the mark a bit by making a jeopardy game that asked students to regurgitate for prizes, exactly what I don't want to learn 1984. As far as our quiz went, it was a killer. Many of our questions were pretty detailed. However, I tried to choose questions that I knew would be important later in the book, since I had already finished it. In that way, it seemed meaningful to understanding the text. I liked the blog question, because it allowed further discussion, but I was partly disappointed in the echoing responses of my peers who didn't seem to me like they were really thinking about it. I think I could have done a better job of teaching, especially after seeing some other groups. I think that next year, as much as it is important to have constructivism for this unit, we need to have a fishbowl at least once a week or once every few chapters. 1984 is SUCH an important warning of what humans can become, and without discussion, I don't know if there is much of a point in reading it. I felt like the unit flew by with less depth than I would have hoped. For example, when we read Fahrenheit 451, I had already read the book. However, from fishbowling every week, I got a much much deeper understanding and found this entire world in Bradbury's staggering peice of literature that could be discussed for years. My feelings were not the same for 1984. I think the class thought too academically about the project. We were struggling with the expectation that our quizzes were, well, quizzes and that our presentations were creative and taught the chapter. However, the idea that we had to teach took away the great learning as a group thing we have going. It's hard to explain, but usually, everone is completely equal in discussions, even fishbowl leaders. With our groups for 1984, the lead group felt the need to stand in front of the class, play their game, and give a quiz, which is kind of exactly what we are trying to get away from this year. I think the fault lies in our inexperience with teaching each other. With practice, I do think this would be an absolutely outstanding experience. I feel like I kind of ragged on it a lot, but I really liked it. I just felt that, with 1984 especially, there was a sense of depth really missing in our teaching days.

Selenam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Selenam said...

I thought it was cool seeing other people's points of view and their different teaching styles. I think I got a lot of different things out of the book then I would have if just one person taught, it gave me more variety.
I think we chose to go the route of regurgitation because for most of us this was the first time we made a quiz, and it was easy to grade on facts. It is harder to grade completely opinion based quizzes, because you can't grade on whether an opinion is correct or not.
Our group went first, so we only had one day to prepare. We split up, two people worked on the quiz, and two people decided how we were going to teach.
I think if the first group had more time then just one or two days, they would be able to teach better.

amandah said...

Being able to teach the class was a great experiance and taught you to be independent and it really made you aprreciate your teachers. I really liked this idea of peer teaching because this all goes back to be producers of knowledge or education. It was really fun to be taught by fellow classmates. On the other hand, it was hard to plan everything in the amount of time given. I really like this idea and I think that it would be a really good way to do other units in the future.

mattw said...

I agree with selena, because our group was first, and we had to scramble to get something acceptable together, all we could really agree on in the thirty or so minutes all four of us had together in class the day before was the quiz and split discussions. I think we did great for the first group. We had no trouble at all getting along.
Honestly, I can't really find any sense of independence or deeper understanding from this activity. I didn't feel like I had any control, because we were being graded on our teaching performance by a pro, and each group had to prepare so many things for just one class period. I will have to punch myself for saying this, but maybe if we could give something like homework, so we know that the time we spent "teaching" them would actually be useful.
Like many other people, I think regurgitation was the easy way out, or at least the best way we know how to analyze subject knowledge.
Apart from providing more planning time, I think it would help to actually give the "teachers" more POWER. There was obvious disrespect towards the teachers, because they're our classmates. I think we should be able punish...
For instance, Stephen kept blurting out in our discussion, and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to yell at him or cut him off.
I really understand now why you get angry at people who talk too much in class.

lizc said...

I have to admit, it was interesting being able to teach our own class. There were days when we did fun activities and then there were days when things weren't quite as fun as most people would have wanted. However, I didn't exactly get what we were supposed to be learning. Basically, everyone was throwing the facts around all the time and, like Mrs. Smith said, we had simple multiple choice quizzes. I think that most people did this because that is how we have been raised. After all, wasn't it required to have some kind of quiz? What else were we supposed to do? I suggest that you drop the idea of the quiz next time and make the blog count double. On the blog some of the best thoughts come out. As for the group activity thing, it worked alright. For me, it is harder to teach in a group than it would be for me to teach by myself. This unit required that though, and I was willing to accept it. Some of the groups seemed to be rather sloppy and you could definately tell when they didn't prepare themselves, but I think that we had a sufficient amount of time to get everything pulled together. It was a nice unit, but I didn't like how 1984 ended...

mattf said...

To me, this was a very helpful activity. I saw how hard it was to be a teacher, and now understand why it is so hard to change the way teachers teach. During a Whole New Mind, everyone said how much they hated detail oriented quizzes, yet their quizzes were still detail oriented. I did not particularly mind the detail oriented quizzes, but the quiz I designed was detail oriented. This has caused me to become much more independent in my learning.

aweber said...

My group happened to go first. We only had one day to plan ours, but we got extra time in class and that helped us get everything done. we did a very good job, in my opinion. we planned to have our discussion led by drawing questions out of a hat. i think it was a very good experience, both for my peers and myself, because teaching a class is fun and exciting, and getting taught is also fun

mitchl. said...

When we were still in our 1984 unit, the whole lessons were up to the students to conduct a creative and fun class. Some people invented games to re-enact the reading from the previous night, or others chose to talk and reflect about what we read. I liked all of it because it gave people the chance to see others' insights and views of the book. Personally, my group had plenty of time to set up and plan for our day to present and teach the class. I thought we had more than enough work time to complete this and that all the presentations people did were well thought and carried out. I wish we could do this for every book we read.

kristinah said...

I want to know what suggestions they would have for doing this again.
I enjoyed the variety that was provided by the diffent groups and the interesting thoughts and ideas that came from those versus a traditional fishbowl everytime. But, in contrast, the fishbowls, to me, seem to bring about more discussion and more indepth thinking than we had during these student teachings. I think that with the quizzes, often times they were regurgitation instead of discussion because we all we trying not to be the same and to make sure that there was time for the creative presentations that were planned.
Our group did not have a difficult time planning at all. Most of it was accomplished in the classroom and we had little to do outside to where we had to get together. We met once or twice in the morning and did all other collaboration on a wikispace and split it up from there. We divided it and conquered!
We had plenty of time to put it all together. For next time, the only thing that I would suggest is to have a scheduled fishbowl at the end of every week no matter what so that discussion will be able to lead to a deeper understanding and deeper thoughts about the book.

alyssas said...

Sorry I was absent when this response was assigned so I'm going to do it now. I think that the way we learned from each other when reading 1984 was an overall good learning experience. The most apparent thing I through this process is how difficult it is to put together a lesson plan. The only bad part was, like Mrs. Smith pointed out, that we often ended up doing the same things we always do. I think this happened because we didn't know what else to do. This is the first time I have ever been taught in this abstract way, so I had no idea how to teach the lesson in any other way, besides what I had been exposed to before.

MollyS said...

This assignment had different vibes than all of our other novels in this class, after all there was double pressure to perform well, both in the learning and in the teaching. It is one thing when you know that if you bomb a homework assignment or a quiz it is just between you and your teacher, and especially if you trust them, that they aren’t going to look at you any differently after your performance, but when you are turning in your homework to and getting quizzes graded by your peers, there is just that much more pressure to be great. No one, or at least not me, wants their table partner knowing how they did on the last quiz. I think this may have been more of a problem had it been in a different class, one that was more divided.
In the previous novel units in this class, especially in A Whole New Mind, it has been apparent that students have a dreadfully idealistic outlook on schooling. I am not saying that things such as video games in classrooms wouldn’t be successful, or schools that have extremely bright colored walls wouldn’t ever happen, but by looking at the nature of our quizzes, I think it is very obvious that it is all more complicated than it seems. We can have all the opinions that we want, and we can preach for all the non-regurgitation-ary lessons we want, but if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves, how can we influence others to do the same? To tell you the truth however, I don’t think most of us made the conscious choice not to make creative quizzes; I just don’t think it ever occurred to us to do it any other way. So maybe if we got nothing out of this other than it is okay to branch out, push the limits, and give the class an unexpectedly odd quiz.

beckyg said...

I thought learning 1984 from our peers was a very unique experience. It was very interesting to see the creativity of out classmates to come up with such varied and original lesson plans. One, a simulation of the life of someone in 1984, was very exciting. I think learning from our peers was a very interesting experience and I think the kids in my class did a very good job with it.
I do not think the quizzes were entirely regurgitation. Most of the quizzes included a short answer or a big thinking questing that kind of summed up some of the main points and read between the lines things in the chapter. Some of the questions had to be regurgitation just because we needed to make sure our classmates had done the reading (not that anyone would skip the reading). Sometimes I found the quizzes difficult because, not all the activities really focused on important parts of the chapter, and it is hard to tell what the presentation group found most important.
Personally, I feel like I didn’t learn this book as well as I have learned some of the others. As lesliel said, “I don’t think we really broke the code.” I really liked doing the ficshbowls because they helped me learn a lot and see the deeper meanings hidden within the text. Some of the activities like this really helped while some of the others did not. I think it all depends on one’s independent learning style, so I think this was probably helped each person in a different way because, while I may like and get a lot out of the ficshbowls, someone else may not.

mitchs said...

I really enjoyed having the many different teaching styles. When Ms. Smith teaches, we usually do the same thing. We read, we either blog or talk in the inner circle one day and then move on to the next section of reading. With the kids teaching, it was fun to do all the different activities and I think I got a lot more out of the book than I would have otherwise. I think the reason most groups went with quizzes was because it is (for the most part) the main way that we have been tested on reading before. We didn't really know another way to test knowledge of the chapters, so we did the only thing we knew how to do and tested on regurgitated information. Collaborating and getting all of our stuff together to teach was really easy, at least for my group. We got everything done during the in class work days and didn't have to try to contact each other outside of class. If you were to do this again, I would stick with the same process, I really thought it was the best way to teach 1984.