Worksheets and Reflective Practice

  • How much time do I spend participating in the same activities and work as my learners?
  • Do I ever feel excited about a lesson I have planned?

Those are two questions taken from a lengthy self-evaluation questionnaire created back in 1992. They're good questions. I found them the other night, digging around among some binders for a useful word list. I also found some sheets for story mapping. Here's how those finds shaped my night.

Everyone was reading independently, including me (reading about water and oceanography in preparation for helping another learner the next day). The learners all had the general notion of later "writing about" what they read. I thought the story mapping sheets might help organize that writing. I also thought - based on question #1 - it would be good practice for me to use the sheets as well.

I'd just finished reading, and so announced - somewhat disruptively - that I was going to "use one of these sheets to write about what I just read about." Then I handed other copies of the sheets around "in case anybody else wants to use one."

I'm saying "sheets" because I had two different single-page sheets. Each sheet asked us to organize information in a slightly different way. Here's my answers, with the original questions in bold:

Who did it? Charles William Beebe and Otis Barton

What happened? Made the first deep-sea dives in the oceans. They went down as far as 600 feet in 1930, and Barton ended up going down as far as 4,500 feet. Although visibility was poor, on one dive they reported seeing a 'giant serpent "more than twenty feet long and very wide".'

Where did it happen? Off the Bahamas and off California.

When did it happen? Between 1930 and 1948.

Who did it happen to? The oceanographic community and several mysterious fish.

Why did it happen? Both men were well-off, adventurous, and university educated. The oceans were an unexplored world.

What will happen next? In 1960, two other men dove 8 times as deep, after which attention focused on outer space. No one else went deep diving and, due to the cost, no one seems likely to any time soon.

Okay. So what did I learn about supporting adult basic education and literacy?

First, I learned that it is possible to use a form created for mapping out fiction to relate a nonfictional event. However, the questions didn't always fit the events - witness the "who did it happen to?" question - and that might frustrate or confuse someone who's concerned about following the rules.

Second, answering the questions forced me to re-read the text. I was a bit more attentive, wanting to get the facts right. Moreover, when I was done I was well-positioned to write a paragraphed summery. So, I guess it "worked" in terms of being a tool for re-reading... supposing you think there's value in that.

Third, doing this work - using the form - gave me a first hand understanding of what I was encouraging my learners to do. If the form had been completely ill-suited to the task, I would have recognized it right away. If it had felt onerous or unpleasant or trivial, I would have recognized that as well. Maybe that's the most important thing - being able to recognize a bad idea, especially when it comes from me.

How about that second question: Do I ever feel excited about a lesson I have planned?

Well, in the midst of working through my story-mapping form, I started thinking about this blog post. That led me to take a picture of my spot at the table.

"What for?" they wanted to know.

I'll probably write about this on my blog, I answered.

"Blog? What's a blog?" someone asked.

Anyway... push led to shove, and before the night was through that learner had created a blog.

They called it "Reading for Fun and Learning" and made their first book-review style post. (I'm not going to link it yet because there are some privacy settings and such I want to talk her through.)

So, yeah. That was kindda exciting. Even more revealing, after everyone else put their stuff away and went home, I stayed at the table working on this post.

How much time do I spend participating in the same activities and work as my learners? Several hours a night, and a good chunk of the next day - if this exercise is anything to go by.

No comments: