My ninth graders are smart and funny, unique and articulate, and when they are given a voice, they use it. Our Socratic discussions, whether focusing on great literature or the news of the day, are lively and compelling, always enlightening, and tremendously gratifying.
My students are encouraged to speak responsibly to any topic, listen with the greatest respect for diverse points of view, and facilitate consensus among their peers.
All of the skills they use during these discussions are aligned to the Common Core, and all are 21st Century skills that they will use throughout their lives.
In homage to the conch made famous in "Lord of the Flies" my students pass a stress ball as a means of handing each other the floor. No one interrupts the person with the "conch." Their only challenge is to be heard.
As a teacher of ELA and Journalism, I employ the use of Socratic discussion in class for a number of reasons. For me, it is a formative assessment -- a method of checking understanding on any given text or other matter. From the start of the year -- especially for freshmen -- it establishes a culture of respect and accountability. But from the students' point of view, it is a golden opportunity to be heard, to learn from others, to review difficult material, to share work and field various positions or opinions.
With up to 27 students sitting in a circle during Socratic discussion, a wheezing, rattling and clacking mechanism in the classroom that circulates air, and a good number of us challenged by poor acoustics and ambient sound, the Qball would ensure that even the softest speaking students in class are able to share.
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