Up and about with purpose

Today I asked my Ss a question, “If you were Thomas Jefferson, would you have declared war on England?” This is easily a yes/no question with a short response that I would usually follow up with a turn and talk. However, I wanted to make a positive change and add to my formative assessment toolbox. I have been reading on how much movement increases retention and improves classroom climate, so I went for it. I have had them move around and choose small groups before, but I wanted to see how well they could handle larger groups and stay out of seats and on their feet. I made all the ‘yes’ answers stand up and go to one side and the ‘no’ to the other. In every class, my Ss were really excited to get up and move around and get into a large group of their peers. I then had them come up with a one collaborative good reason why on each side. I knew this was a bit of a risk to have just two large groups, however, they were really engaged and right to discussing great points and having conversations about what would be not only the best answer, but one that the other side would want to agree with to change their mind. After letting this go for a few minutes, I started with the no side, then without comment, to the yes side. I let each side come up with a reason they had a better stance and both sides developed a second point to try to persuade the others. They were all moving around taking to each other, discussing facts, hypothetical situations, analyzing the rebuttals, and so much more. What was most important, they were learning. Learning not only content, but collaboration and conversation skills. To close the lesson, I said “in the end, the ‘no’ side was what Jefferson did, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out why the ‘yes’ side was not completely wrong”. (Jefferson didn’t want war, but Madison will. War of 1812) Like in show business, always leave them wanting more. This is an approach to formative assessment that I’m definitely going to keep in constant rotation.

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