Today marked the beginning of my Practicum II experience at Columbus Middle School in a Social Studies classroom. Upon arriving, I was welcomed by the principle of the school, who let me know that if I needed anything, to simply ask. My cooperating teacher, Ms. Hudson, also welcomed me into the classroom; she explained the middle school’s class schedule, she gave me a brief overview of the material to be taught this school year, and she introduced me to her colleagues on the “Duke” team. Everyone seemed very friendly and willing to help me if I needed something, which helped me feel more relaxed and comfortable.
I witnessed two eighth grade blocks during my time in the classroom. Both classes received the same instruction. Being the first week of school, the first part of the class focused on class rules and expectations (including being respectful, being young adults and making good decisions, and taking good risks in the classroom). Ms. Hudson showed students important parts of her classroom including the “student zone” (featuring materials such as pencils, a stapler, etc.) and the homework station. Columbus Middle School participates in a 1:1 technology program, so all students and staff have iPads to use. Ms. Hudson briefly discussed the iPads and their use for the coming year. As far as social studies content went, the students listened to a rap song about explorers and then played explorer BINGO, in which I read aloud the clues and facilitated the game.
One question I took away from today is: How do you find the right balance between making students be silent during an activity and letting them chat with their peers? While I was facilitating BINGO (for the first class period), students would talk amongst each other after every clue was given. To me, it did not seem to be as big a deal because they were talking about the game and the clues, and I tend to be more relaxed about that kind of thing. Ms. Hudson, on the other hand, did not want students to talk in between questions, as she wanted us to get through the game and have students stay focused. I guess the amount one limits students’ small talk depends on the teacher and their classroom management preferences, but is there a generally accepted approach to this predicament? If you let students talk every once in a while, will they take advantage of that? Or conversely, if you let students talk every once in a while, will they respect that privilege and then be quiet when it really matters?