Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Students Use Phones to Record Lit Circles!

This is one of those ideas that is so good, I wish I had thought of it:

Have your students use their phones to record their Literature Circle Discussions!

The other day I walked into Ms. Z's room for a meeting on another topic but the first thing she shared was the idea above. She was so excited! Having spent years developing different routines and procedures for Literature Circles (or Book Club Meetings as she calls them), she had never been satisfied with how she was assessing student participation in discussion. She described past lessons where she made herself crazy trying to dip in and out of each group's meeting, manically scribbling student quotes, dashing down notes, and completing checklists. It was stressful and an incomplete pictures of how the book clubs were doing.

On this day, she told each group to take out a cell phone and record their meeting. At the end of class, each group was to email her the file of their discussion. Voila! A simple solution for holding each group accountable for their meeting ("Don't say that, this is getting recorded!") and for her to listen more deeply in class ("I could sit and really listen to the meeting.") and for her to follow up on individual contributions (Ms. Z could listen to the meetings later in the day and give specific feedback to students about their role in the group). What a difference.

What I love about this idea is that:
  • it is simple - record the meeting, email the teacher
  • it uses technology that students already have with them (even in our very economically diverse middle school, there was at least one cell phone per group)
  • it puts responsibility on the students (Ms. Z reports that students were even more on task than usual, knowing their discussion was being recorded)
  • it amplified the teacher's ability to give feedback to students (she could now be in more than one place at a time!) 
I'd love to hear from others what they think about this strategy. Have you already been doing this? What makes it work well? What challenges have you faced? How has administration responded? Students? Parents? Can you think of other times it's useful to have students use their cell phones to record? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think!

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