Today my classes began the so-called “20 minute experiment.” (read about it from @jgough and @boadams1). In the experiment, my class takes a break 20 minutes into the lesson to summarize or synthesize the learning that’s going on in the classroom (at some point I hope that they add “hypothesize” to that list) and posting that summary/synthesis on Twitter using the #20minwms hashtag.
In class today we’re recapping the first three chapters of a book (a reader about two Spanish teachers traveling throughout South America) by collaborating on small-group summaries. This intro-level Spanish 2 class is taking a story written in the present and future tense and summarizing it in the past tense–a good way to start off the new semester, not to hard, but the task involves a lot of processing.
I feared that taking a break after 20 minutes might derail them. I was delighted to see them eagerly turn toward the SmartBoard to make their Twitter entry, then redirect without prompting from me back to their assignment.
After 5 days of school cancellations, I expected serious attention deficit problems in even the most disciplined students–today of all days, their first day back. But I seriously underestimated my students. Or did I simply misunderstand how they handle certain tasks?
From the beginning of the class, they were in charge. My instructions were spartan. I lingered about helping them recall a word or phrase, but they led the activity. After I explained the Twitter experiment, I gave them control of the Twitter feed. After they agreed on the tweet, they hit Submit and went back to their task.
My 20 minute learning for today: when the student has ownership of the activity, the impulse to abandon it is not nearly as strong as when they’re simply “carrying my luggage.”