Adventure Specialists' Advice
September 1, 2016
Getting to Know Your Students: Inside Room 801
With more testing than ever in years past, I realized that I was forgoing the most important part of my job description, which was getting to know my students. One lazy Saturday morning, an idea came to me while watching Inside the Actors Studio. Why not hold an interview for my students and allow their classmates to ask the questions, therefore creating a meaningful way to practice social skills AND get to know my eighth graders? So I created "Inside Room 801" (801 is my classroom number).
So the idea was simple: I generated 10 basic questions for every student who will be in the "hot seat." The "hot seat" was my nice, comfortable teacher chair at the front of the room they get to sit in while being interviewed.
When the student in the hot seat is randomly selected from my name sticks, I give them the premade list to review and practice answers. Then they're assigned a day the following week for their "interview." Come interview time, I randomly assign ten classmates in the "audience" to each ask a question; however that classmate has to stand up and ask it clearly and with eye contact. The interviewee must answer in complete sentences and expand on their answers (yes/no answers are not allowed.)
Everyone in the room, including myself, is taking notes on the interviewee's answers. Once students have asked all 10 questions it then opens up to questions they want to know. Of course, the rule of thumb is school-appropriate questions (or as I like to explain, questions you can ask in front of the principal, your mother, and your grandmother).
It is probably best that if you were going to do this activity for the first time that you model it. The first time Inside Room 801 was launched, I was in the hot seat. I modeled how to expand on answers and give thoughtful responses.
This activity not only allowed me to get to know my students in a safe and structured manner, but it allowed me to give basic presentation advice like: keep your feet on the floor, project your voice, look at the person, etc. All things students will need to know for a successful job interview!
Below is what I created for my students as a handout to practice prior to their interview.
Inside Room 801
Below is a list of questions that a classmate will ask you for your interview. You need to prepare for your 15-minute interview by thinking of these answers and EXPANDING your thought. Your classmates will also be able to ask more questions if you complete all of these.
Here's what I'm looking for:
What is your favorite book that you've read?
My favorite book is The Giver. It was the first book that I read where it was futuristic and a "perfect" world. It was crafted well, it amazed me in the manner it was written, with characters being told what their job would be at the age of 12, who their spouse would be, even applying to be a parent!
The Giver. It was good.
"Inside Room 801" Standard interview questions
- Who is a role model for you?
- What is your favorite book that you've read?
- What is your best childhood memory so far?
- What is the toughest thing you have ever had to do?
- What profession would you like to attempt?
- What profession would you NOT like to do?
- What do you think is your best feature (physical trait)?
- What do you think is your best character trait? (honest, loyal, hard working, etc.)
- If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you travel?
- What are your plans after high school?
Thursday, September 8: Follow a Friday Schedule; go to Bible class during the MS Activities slot
Friday, September 9: Follow a Friday Schedule; MS Activity in the gym
Evening sessions at 7 PM all three day.
No Homework assigned during SEW so more students can participate in the evening services.
What are you thinking about?
A few years ago I read a book that changed my perspective on education. Daniel Willingham's Why Students Don't Like School opened my eyes to many problematic issues in schools around the world. One of the foundational truths Dr. Willingham addresses in the book is how learning actually takes place. It's so simple that it almost seems trivial...students learn what they think about. Good teachers help students think about what they are learning. Obvious, right? Willingham's point is that often teachers keep students busy with tasks that don't get them truly thinking and processing what they are actually supposed to be learning. The tasks are busy work. Here's an example from my ES years: the diorama. Students in my era would be assigned to use a shoe box to create a scene from a book we had read. I loved doing it! What was I thinking about? I thought about my glue, rocks, scissors, grass, and paint. The book? I thought about it a little bit, but mostly I was thinking about my diorama. This is an example of things that keep students busy (and happy!) but don't always challenge them to do thinking that results in learning about the main objective the teacher has in mind. There are ways to keep creativity without compromising on learning, but it takes some careful reflection on the teacher's part. Active learning can be such an effective tool for assigning thinking tasks that reinforce learning, but it can also be used in a way that distracts from learning. For the next few weeks I will discuss how active learning can be used to give students thinking tasks that will result in true learning.