Room for the awesome

I loved the article by Metzger on the Socratic Seminar format that she used in her classroom. I loved it because, aside from teaching algebra, my favorite thing to do as a sub was read with kids and talk about what we had read. And one of my favorite things to do as an adult is consume, analyze, and talk about stuff. Case in point, the number of text messages flying back and forth between my cousin and me after he lent me his copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer this summer. My most memorable learning experiences as a student  and a human have been in  a Socratic setting.

What I do not love are the book club discussion questions that seem to be occurring more and more frequently in the backs of books. What unimaginative, uninteresting questions! If you’re going to have a book club, at least go the extra step of requiring people to articulate a thought or question for discussion based on their own reading and not someone else’s. This is what Metzger finds, too, when she notices how she derails conversation when she attempts to direct the discussion. This is also what I found as a sub. Frequently, teachers have some kind of prepared list of questions that they ask at the end of a reading, and these questions were invariably the least interesting part of talking with the kids about their experiences with the text.

I’ve been away at a conference for the last few days, and here’s a short list of things I noticed:

  • When you aren’t prepared for a presentation, people notice. They especially notice when you make a point of telling them how last minute your preparation for the presentation is.
  • There are few things more boring than listening to someone read a presentation word-for-word off a sheet of paper. Or, as is more frequently the case, multiple sheets of paper.
  • The best, most effective presentations are well thought out but leave lots of room for interaction.

So, here’s what I’m saying, and this relates to the Metzger article as well as my work experience and conference experience: Plan, prepare, think, and then just let go. Don’t be afraid. You need to leave room for the awesome to happen.

4 thoughts on “Room for the awesome

  1. Kristin says:

    I couldn’t agree more about the pre-made book club questions, especially when I find them in books that are beach/fun reads. Nothing wrecks a brain candy book like discussion questions!

  2. linguomancer says:

    I also completely agree about the book discussion questions. They always seem like the type of questions that would make me immediately tune out of an English class, and they come off as extremely leading, like they’re expecting a certain answer. I do wonder if a book club needs a good discussion leader or facilitator, though. The one I was part of never really got anywhere with our discussions, and people seemed more focused on talking about whether they liked something than anything beyond that.

  3. Naomi says:

    I agree about book questions! They regularly ruin the story and are completely boring! I wonder who writes the questions? Interns who haven’t really read the book?

  4. Meggan says:

    Guys, there are discussion questions at the end of Bossypants by Tina Fey. Seriously. And they sound like someone trying really hard to be as funny and awesome as Tina Fey while trying to educate you. Example: “What do you think it means to be a Bossypants? Do you know anyone personally that you would describe as a Bossypants and did the society you live in ever try to drown her?”

    The society I live in? Really?

    For the record, I think being a Bossypants means not answering asinine questions like that. Yes, I am a Bossypants. And no, no one has tried to drown me. Yet.

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