Students will be able to compose six critical thinking questions about the trial and use them in a student-led Socratic Seminar.
Last night my beloved Packers were victims to what is being called some of the worst officiating in NFL history. Fortunately, I was asleep when this dreadful call was made, and therefore it did not ruin my Tuesday until third period today. Let me backtrack a bit.
Today we attempted our first mini Socratic Circle (or Socratic Seminar – I keep using them interchangably and really confusing my students). I had them spend the first fifteen minutes writing six questions about the trial and Atticus’ address to the jury, using critical thinking wheels for inspiration. These are my new favorite teaching tool – they come with question stems for Bloom’s taxonomy areas (Knowledge, Comprehension, Evaluation, etc.). They’re a really easy way for students to write good, thought-provoking questions. I received some great ones, like “How would the story change if Tom Robinson was white?”, but also some not-so-great ones, like, “Do you think Tom is guilty?” to which the obvious answer is “Heck no.” Anyway, they each wrote six questions to guide their discussion. They sat in two concentric circles: the inside circle led the discussion, and the outside circle took notes on index cards and jumped in the empty “hot seat” to add to the discussion. Everyone had three index cards with their names on them that counted toward their participation; if they said something as part of their discussion, they tossed a card into the middle of the circle. If they didn’t verbally participate, they turned in a card with a comment on it at the end of class. By fourth period the middle of my classroom was littered with two hundred dirty index cards. When they were all picked up for me, I found hair, a dead fly, and what I hope was an old skittle stuck into the pile. But I digress.
While my first-of-the-day students are always a little sleepy, by late morning my classes had heard about our circles and were pumped. So pumped that by third period there were so many cards flying and people talking at once that we were nearing a verbal riot. While the teacher is not supposed to have any part in this discussion (during one class I tried to jump in the “hot seat” and was told I was not allowed and needed to vacate immediately), I had to step in. I offered them suggestions such as calling on the next student to talk, or tossing an object around for whoever had the floor. They liked the latter, so I threw in my little Green Bay Packer beanie baby Antonio Freeman. He normally sits on my white board shelf, and they take turns attempting to knock him into the trash can when I’m not paying attention. Anyway, since Antonio was once a Packer, they decided to take some cheap shots at how my beloved team had lost the night before, when someone else jumped to their defense blaming bad refs, and suddenly my Socratic Seminar left poor Tom Robinson and jumped to a debate of a Hail Mary TD or the worst call ever made. I remember Antonio Freeman from Super Bowl XXXI when he and Brett Favre won the first National Championship of my young life. It’s funny how his Beanie Baby managed to spark so much debate considering when he played his last Packer game, my students were in first grade. Eventually we got back to the topic of discussion, but a small piece of me enjoyed getting so far off track discussing one of my favorite subjects (albeit a sad occasion for them). We finished the period by watching the verdict on the movie and dealing with the shock to many of my students. Overall I was pleased with the day.
On a sidenote…I’ve been out of toner in my classroom laser printer for the last week and a half, which required me to email all my documents to my teacher next door to have her print them for me in order to make copies. Today I finally got a new toner cartridge. I managed to figure out how to extract the piece that I believed contained the ink from my printer, and sat staring at it on my desk for five whole minutes, thinking to myself, “I went to Harvard, I can change an ink cartridge…I went to Harvard, I can change an ink cartridge.” I finally figured it out, though I’m sorry to say I managed to get ink all over my elbows (I know not how) and found the installation instructions after finally getting it in there. I was glad no one was there to see me struggle.