What brings this to mind? We finished a unit on social psych. Students did very well on the test. But we didn’t proceed through the unit in any sequential, orderly manner...one bullet point after another. I can’t do it. It’s not the way I think. Students do complete an extensive study guide that provides guidance, but I may highlight pages 8-9 of the study guide one day and pages 13 and 19 on another. Over the years, I’ve asked students for feedback of course, and no one has ever asked for more order, more bullet-point slides, more sequential in-class notes. But now I’m curious if I’ve been driving students crazy with my relatively frenzied approach. To clarify, the frenzy is always painstakingly organized, I know exactly what I want to cover during a class period (which sounds contradictory; am I orderly or not? I am. I’m not. I am.), but the push forward each day is more art than science. One of the greatest compliments a student can offer: “Mr. Romano, do you make lesson plans?” I love this because the hours spent preparing seem effortless, as it should be.
I’ll offer two examples of the controlled chaos that happened this week. We watched a 12-minute clip of the latest Batman movie, the scene in which the joker gives a detonator to a ship full of prisoners and another to a ship full of ordinary citizens. After watching, students had to find examples of concepts we’d been discussing these past two weeks. I didn’t know what they would identify exactly, but I had questions to prompt them, and as always, those bright young minds answered the questions insightfully and thought of angles I hadn’t considered.
Example two. I’m proud of this little review game I concocted during a bicycle ride one day. (Bicycle rides and long walks can be quite productive when trying to generate ideas.) We invited a panel of four freshmen to the front of the room. My class was divided into five teams. Each team had written down concepts on little cards, and they had to persuade freshmen to “exhibit” the concept in 40 seconds. The freshmen didn’t have to guess the actual concept on the card; they simply had to express the idea. For example, if my students, like prosecutors, could lead a freshman to agree that all politician are the same and to list some of the ways in which they’re the same, my students could turn over the card they were holding, with stereotype written on it, and gain points. There were some other little twists, but that’s the main gist. The game created mayhem, but it was focused mayhem. And not a single bullet point to be found.