Just Ask

Last week I wrote about listening to my students and the shock I received when I realized that I was always planning for my students but not with my students. In fact, I was doing the same thing that teachers complain about others doing to us.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening to my students but rather, that I was listening to them only after I had planned my teaching.  I would revise my plans based on their feedback and my own observations.  But revising is drastically different from co-creating, isn’t it?

So this week, I have tried to go beyond just listening and actually start asking.  First step, writing workshop. Right now we are in the midst of a fabulous independent project where each student chooses their genre, format, style and medium.  They write about things that interest them, styles with which they want to experiment and in genres they love to read. And boy, do they write. Why?  Because they care about it!  And the sneaky secret? They are still learning (and I am still teaching) about organization, supporting details, elaboration, vivid descriptions and even editing.  And here’s the kicker – they are asking for these things.

After our math heart to heart, we sat down again and I told them that we would decide which lessons we should have in this writing unit. I usually wait until the end of a unit to have students select a couple of revision areas where they would like mini-workshops.  But this time, I want them to co-create our unit right away. Since I am a member of the community, yes, I also get to add in my own ideas.  But this means that I also have to be working on a writing project.  Can you guess my project?  Yup, it’s this teacher blog!

Here are a few of their ideas for lessons:


Each student chose lessons for themselves and I was blissfully happy at how thoughtful they were as they analyzed their needs and wants as a writer.  I can’t wait until this week when students can select their areas of expertise so they can lead small workshops and co-teach.

My lesson going into this week?  Listening is important but it must go hand in hand with asking. Ask students what works.  Ask students what doesn’t work. Ask them what they need.  Ask them what they want.

And then listen.

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