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Classroom Experiments #1

It was the start of first period class, and students seemed lethargic after the long weekend. I made a couple attempts at conversation, but few expressed interest. More directly, I asked students what they wanted to do today.

“I’m easy,” said one teenager. “I’m open to whatever.”

The general desire was to be told what to do, preferably something easy and relaxing. I was reluctant to assume the lead. Instead, I wanted the impetus to come from the voice of students. So I pressed further, going student by student in hope of finding some spark of interest.

One student asked, “Can we do yoga?”

I said that if she were able to organise the activity, then the class was welcome to do yoga. Among the sixteen students in the class, a few expressed interest, and this group congregated at the centre of the room. They strategised among themselves, and before long, had slipped into a chat about their weekends.

I waited a few moments before calling for student attention. Then I presented them with a choice; either take on some textbook work, or suggest another productive activity. Yoga was reaffirmed as an area of interest, and another said he wanted to listen to music.

“Why don’t we do yoga while listening to music,” suggested another student.

I asked students to say whether they were in or out. On first call, several students expressed interest, and none objected. Then I made clear that keeping silent is also a choice, and with no dissention, all students would be expected to participate.

On second call, two students voiced that were not into yoga. They offered instead a desire to free write to the meditative sounds in the room. A third student suggested that this was good music for doing Slam Poetry, and if they wanted, he could teach them how to do it.

And so it was that my students cleared space in the classroom, found a YouTube video called Yoga for Dummies, and led themselves through a 45-minute yoga session. The level of engagement seemed high, and I was able to participate, as well as check in with individual students.

I expect most teachers would ask what this “lesson” had to do with the curriculum. After all, these students are enrolled in a Grade 11 Marketing class, and we were scheduled to learn about Brand Identity.

At the start of each unit, I provide students with a daily schedule, which list the learning topic, and a couple of investigative questions. Today those included ‘how do I see myself?’ and ‘how do I want others to perceive me?’

We spent the last fifteen minutes of class in classroom dialogue, using the questions as platforms for discussion. Students pointed out that, while doing yoga, it was uncomfortable to stand in front of the group, because it felt like you were being watched. That led to a few comments about presenting yourself, and that the way you see yourself influences the way others see you. Then I wrapped up with my own thoughts about Identity and how they relate to the world of Branding.

I’m not sure how effective a curriculum administrator I was today, but I’d like to think I helped sixteen teenagers take a step forward in taking ownership of their learning.

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