Beginning ...with the second half of the semester, every Friday is given over to my students. We don’t have any readings assigned by me, and I don’t plan any material for the class.
Instead, small groups of 3-5 students are responsible for determining the day’s content and executing that.
"You need to plan some sort of activity that will last at least 30 minutes; it must engage the whole class; and it must relate in an immediate way to the text we are currently reading."
Otherwise, you are free to plan what you want, and I won’t interfere.
...After the anxiety wears off, my students often seem to engage with the activity remarkably well.
It encourages ownership of the material, it provokes them to think in depth about a week’s worth of reading, and the discussion that have come out of it (so far) have turned out to be really e
It’s hard to give up directing the conversation, steering students —but of course, I still do that Mondays and Wednesdays.
What I discovered is that this group of students, ...comes around to the right questions and interpretive moments, anyways.
Today one of the group members asked about tree symbolism in Beloved. “Perhaps it’s coincidental,” one student said.
“Well,” another student answered, “it’s hard to imagine that it would be coincidental—think of all the planning that went into the novel.” And from there they were off, debating the symbolism and even debating the value of reading for symbolism...
Though their arguments often lacked an advanced theoretical vocabulary, my students were really thinking at high levels with great rigor.
The pedagogical point of all this, ...there is a real value in letting go of control of the classroom for a while. Let your students make mistakes, and see if they can sort them out on their own.
Let your students talk about what they’re invested in, what they find compelling about the topic at hand, what they don’t care about, and why.
Let go of being a classroom “parent” and let your students take responsibility for themselves.