Friday, February 17, 2012

Quiet is Overrated

I teach two blocks of grade 8 science.  My first block works very quietly.  When I give them an assignment, the "work" quietly at their desks.  They do as I ask.  They don't talk out of turn.  They are easy to manage.  When I walk around the room, about 2/3 of them are working.  The other 1/3 are sitting there quietly, not disturbing anyone.  Today I gave them an assignment to write a story or comic that uses density to solve a mystery (murder mystery, is this a real diamond mystery, who stole the cake mystery etc).  At the end of 75 minutes, 1/2 of the students had started an idea.  1/2 of the student had, at most, one sentence, or a stick person drawn.  But they were quiet.  I had the chance to mark their quizzes, respond to a few emails, edit a few yearbook photos.

My second block is loud.  I mean LOUD.  I spend a lot of time reminding them of appropriate volumes and giving speeches on respecting our neighbours by keeping to a reasonable volume.  They are always interrupting me to share their ideas when we're learning new material, and asking questions.  They don't know how to turn away from their neighbours and focus on any given practice questions.  They HATE sitting in their seats.  I attributed this to the fact my class is 65% boys, or that most of the kids are enrolled in a drama class, but that cannot be proven.  Of course, the instinct is to control them.  This "chaos" is hard to handle sometimes.  I'm a little bit "type A" and working with this class, on days, has the potential to leave me frustrated.  Except that I'm not.

You see, when I told them about doing a mystery density assignment, they instantly rose to the challenge. The room gets loud.  Kids start coming up to me with new ideas.  BETTER ideas.  They are eager to demonstrate learning!  They just have ideas about how to do it in ways that work for them.  Two girls are shooting a video.  The room may be loud, but after 20 minutes the script is all written and they are making an equipment list for Monday.  1 student is making a rap video.  1 student designed a comic about a pirate searching for gold.  3 kids got out their iPhones and downloaded new apps to take photos and build a digital comic strip.  2 students asked to use a program called scratch, and one is making a storybook Prezi.  I can see scene rehearsals, and hear the faint beats of a rap in progress.  Kids are storyboarding their plans for the computer applications, and bouncing their ideas off their neighbours.  One student came to me so we could google the bone density of a triceratops.  Other kids are using using their iPhones/iPods to google densities of other substances not found in their textbooks.  My room is loud.  And this is GOOD.  Quiet is overrated.

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