This week we’ve been preparing to write a descriptive paper in class.
What is a very focused description? A riddle.
So on Monday we read riddles. I did a historical introduction to the ones I used.
(“This will be easier if you played a particular children’s game growing up.”
And “George Washington probably heard this one when he was growing up.”)
Eventually I gave everyone five riddles from the Exeter Book (circa 950 AD) translated into modern English. I tell them that the riddles are old.
Then I had them come up with answers on their own.
The students still came up with modern answers. But even those were interesting.
There is one riddle that scholars disagree on the answer. (The book has no answers in it.) I had the students get in groups and told them I would give them extra points if they could figure out what all the possible answers were. Everyone got it!
Wednesday I brought in art cards.
(Did I already tell this story?) I handed each student one and told them not to show it to anyone else. Unbeknownst to them I had at least three others that were very similar to theirs.
Then I told them to write a one line or sentence description of their piece. Then I took up the cards.
I had them give me their line and then I showed them the cards I thought might be theirs. They were surprised by how many cards fit their description.
Then I gave out another set of cards and had them describe the picture they received. This time when I took up the cards I placed them with other similar cards on the table at the front of the room. Then I had them exchange descriptions and come up and find the card matching the description they got.
It was a lot of fun. People were flabbergasted at how many of the cards looked similar. Overall, though, the students were able to find the cards with those second descriptions.
On Wednesday one of my students asked if we were having kindergarten week. Another student thought that would be fun. I laughingly said we would be playing hide and seek. Several of them were excited about that!
Then Calandra gave us the “non-astounding” alphabet technique.
So on Friday, I had them brainstorm on people, places, and things. Then I had them pick one and come up with 26 details starting with letters of the alphabet. I allowed one skip. And for each they came up with extra letters for, they received extra points.
I learned a new word, “xanthic.” It means yellow, which was some special someone’s favorite color.
It expanded their thinking and gave them a finite number of details to shoot for. They loved it! Thanks, Calandra.
Something that didn’t work so well:
I’m not very fond of group work. Mostly because I was always the kid doing all the work for everyone’s grade.
But I have been trying to include more of this for the sake of the students for whom it is a blessing.
I’ve found that if I want them to have productive group discussions I have to be very clear about what I want them to discuss. If I just say “discuss X” they will talk for less than two minutes on topic and then get off on their own lives.
I can give them a checklist or a set of questions to help stop this.
And I tell them I’ll be calling on them for answers afterward.
This is from my adjunct certification course.