I have spent the past few months reflecting on my teaching, and the issue of managing recitations and discussions remains an area in need of improvement for me. Just today, I reviewed some video of my teaching and it appeared to me that I was talking more than was necessary. Even though the design of the lesson was me walking students through primary source documents and heavily scaffolding their learning, I felt as though there was still room for more student-led discussion rather than simply droning on and on.
In all honesty, these students need the scaffolding. The only time adequate room is left for students to lead discussion is in Socratic seminars. So my attention recently has been focused on how to make the most of my teacher-led discussions. Weinstein and Novodvorsky (2011) offer several suggestions on how this may be best accomplished, and I shall address each one with my experiences and developments as an educator.
First, distribute chances for participation (patterned turn-taking, equal opportunity to participate). A visiting principal recently gave me some feedback. "Call on girls," he said so quietly I had to ask him to repeat himself. "You only call on boys." After a quick reflection, sure enough, that is all I did. Granted, all of these boys were raising their hands. As a beginning teacher, it thrills me that people are raising their hands and participating, but the next step is to make sure that everyone participates, not just the boys. At some point, when it is convenient, I would like to try a system (popsicle sticks, maybe?) where I can ensure that everyone will be held accountable for participation.