Inquiring Minds

Can you go back to teacher-centered lecture/discussion once you have introduced students to inquiry-based work, student-centered work? I am not sure.

I started class today by asking students what they know about JFK. Lots of kids contributed lots of ideas. I wrote them on the board. Every one of their answers could have used more discussion, explanation and analysis. 

Then, I blew it. I followed my logically constructed plan designed to illuminate the Kennedy family background, the religious issue, the 1960 campaign and foreign policy. We made our way through video and audio clips stopping to debrief after each one. With each new clip and mini-discussion, participation dropped and restlessness rose. Nobody was irreparably damaged and students probably learned some things but by the end we were all done. I let them go five minutes early thinking I was doing them a favor.

I am not sorry that I assembled the clips and the resources. I am sorry that I followed a scripted plan. I should have followed my opening question, “What do you know?” with “What do you want to know?” I could have shown the clips in any order. I could have allowed the class to evolve in whatever way it wanted. I could have even found other clips. I could have adjusted to the interest and the questions. I could have even allowed for some small group work on different questions. All of these “could haves” represent missed opportunities. 

I wish I had started with my own question, “How did the Kennedy clan fit into the larger themes of American History in the first part of the twentieth century?” and then turned the wheel over to the class. That is where I began in terms of content, but by framing it as my question, I could have modeled what I wanted the class to do. 

The Kennedys are far too interesting; students should have wanted to know more, not to be let out early. I have one more day with JFK this week before we turn our attention back to the research paper with peer review of rough drafts. I have a plan that includes political cartoons, Time Magazines, and reference articles. The question is – what will I do with it?



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