Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our Natural Resources: knowing and using them wisely

Today during class, I noted a brief exchange with a student in my literature class, "The Drama of Math and Science."  I recorded it because it reminded me of a recent conversation with colleagues about The Shallows.  Specifically, I remembered the conversation about learning to use what we already know.

Here's my record of the classroom exchange:

Exchange with student (cf. The Shallows):

student: Can we use our reading notes?
me: Yes.
me: I try to help students develop layers of resources for reading a play.  Our culture promotes moving quickly from one activity to the next.  As a result, we sometimes forget resources we have built in the recent past.

Today students were finding passages in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus that overlapped with questions they said they would ask themselves when "their time came."  They have finished reading the play, and were doing this exercise as a way to reflect further on some of its ideas.  Last week, once they had begun to read Act Two, they started submitting a set of reading notes for each act, according to a template I composed for the opening lines of Act Two.

This student's asking "Can we use our reading notes?" struck me as a prime example of how quickly we, the students and I, are trained to move quickly onto the next agenda item, without pausing to ask, "What resources do I have to complete this task?" 

In keeping with the theme of this post, I neglected to survey the small groups, after they had returned from doing the exercise.  Tomorrow, I will ask, "Who used their reading notes at all while doing yesterday's exercise?"

This post I will copy and paste onto the OneNote page called "Class Notes"--where I recorded today's brief exchange with an exceptionally astute student.


  1. This challenge rears its head in the math classroom as well. DW and I have discussed at great length the importance of helping students build a habit of asking "How does this relate to something I have learned before?" It would be interesting for you to discuss this with him, if you have not already...

  2. Thanks, Andy. I will--probably the week after next. We teachers often compose curriculum with these relations in mind, but you're right that we need to guide students toward actively watching for, identifying and using these connections. If students are "moving on" more rapidly these days, we need to find new ways to instill this habit you and DW have discussed.