The Classroom

The Classroom is a podcast by a middle school writing teacher conferring with students about the books they read and issues in writing. The podcast strives to give students a voice about the impact of choice in the classroom and the reality of what works for them in the teaching of reading and writing.
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Oct 25, 2016

Conferring with Jay, I am reminded that the most meaningful feedback is given from the student to teacher. By that, I mean that the teacher encourages the students to think and share the decisions he makes with his reading and writing. Through the act of speaking it, the student is able to understand it and then, theoretically, decide what he is to do next. The teacher serves as a mentor, not a judge.

This conference with Jay started like so many others. He loves reading, but it slowed down a bit for a few years. Now that he is older, sports & activities take up a lot of time. 

After a class discussion on making a plan for adding reading back into our lives, Jay disciplines himself to bring a book with him in the car and he schedules reading for himself on weekends.

For teachers, what kids do outside of the classroom should matter as much as what they do inside of the classroom. But we can rarely understand what they do unless we ask. And unless we listen.

And this is where Jay's conference turned on a dime. 

Jay shares that he watches Youtube How-to videos. This, of itself, is not remarkable. Many adolescents turn to YouTube to learn, socialize, and create. However, Jay told me that he is noticing style. He said he can tell who made what video according to their editing decisions. While Jay may hear himself sharing a fluent part of the process of being a fledgling teenager, I hear an opportunity to help Jay grow.

If Jay can notice style in a video because of the decisions a filmmaker, then I can coax Jay through conversations of style in various writers because of the decisions they make. Jay will be able to respond to questions about his decisions as well. Because I asked the student to tell me about his reading and writing life outside of the classroom, I have an access point towards helping Jay understand the impact of word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. And if I can help Jay grasp those concepts as a writer, then I know Jay will help others around him grasp those concepts. He will be able to mentor his classmates and writing partners through daily conferring and through synchronous collaborative editing.

But there is another lingering question in the back of my mind...saved for conferences in the near future. What of the YouTube banner statement Broadcast Yourself.

Since broadcasting is a form of publishing our thinking, when do adolescents feel the urge to create on YouTube? Clearly, Jay is drawn to watching it. He says watching his brother create videos is fun. He watches a video with a sophisticated eye for style. I wonder if Jay or my other students will make the leap towards broadcasting their thinking...and how much writing, planning, collaboration, and sharing would go into such a leap. I wonder if students would seize the opportunity to publish their thinking on a class YouTube channel.

Jay has me wondering a lot. He has me thinking about how this supports our students' writing and reading processes today. 

Sometimes the most meaningful feedback is not what we say to a student, it is what we hear from a student.