Chasing the Light Bulb

Sometimes as teachers, we have the priviledge of observing or even participating in a light bulb  moment. I would venture to say that it’s very different at the secondary level. Perhaps even a bit more elusive. But that just makes it more special, right?

I’ve realized that in my teaching, most of these moments seem to come from a big writing unit. You know, the laborious work with some necessary lectures (dull) and research. Sounds awful, and I used to say that I hated teaching writing units (umm… last month) but I noticed that I saw more aha! moments during these units so far this year.

I wonder if it’s because it is the most genuinely “skills based” and “assessable” (is that a word!?) work we do in English class since much of the reading and thinking are invisible/difficult to grade. But maybe it’s part of it is that I get to really work with students on an individual basis in a way that is very different from most of our class time.

Overall, it’s a pretty neat process. Students pick a topic. We discuss it conference style. Students collect sources and start to craft their thesis statements and narrow their topics. We discuss it and I get to ask probing questions and watch them think. [Not regurgitate.] Then they create their Works Cited pages. We talk again. Then the outline. More chatting. Then the rough draft – again with the talking and questioning.

Even though these writing assignments are difficult for the students to write and challenging for me to grade, in some ways, the atmosphere feels more casual. In some ways, we are working together. I’m invested in their work and want it to turn out well. I’m interested not only in learning more about their topics, but more importantly, their interests and opinions.

While I still think teaching a nice novel unit is a joy, I think there is a lot of joy to come out of teaching a writing unit as well. And the two big moments in my short teaching career that truly stand out have both stemmed from these very short conferences. Amazing when teaching is in the small stuff. 🙂


One response to this post.

  1. I just finished doing individual grade conferences with each of my students. I have a small population so I got it done in a week, but it was the most telling week yet! Kids will tell you things in a conference they never would during class. They all listened, all of them. After that success, I’m definitely making a point of doing these at each mid-semester mark. I feel like all of my students are more prepared to change and turn on light bulbs than they were before!

    Good post!


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