My last day of student teaching, I asked the students to fill out a short survey asking them about their favorite and least favorite activities or lessons from the marking period. During our last classes, I distributed these surveys and asked students to take 5-10 minutes to fill them out. In part, I wanted to see the survey results because I believe that students’ favorite activities are also the ones they’ll be most engaged in and make them more receptive to learning the skills I’m helping them develop. That being said, one important question to consider is how much should student enjoyment factor into planning lessons and activities? I do think, as mentioned above, that student interest is a vital part of increasing student learning, but are there some skills students need to learn that they just don’t like practicing no matter what form the lesson takes (e.g. public speaking)? It’s a big question that doesn’t necessarily have a “correct” answer, but it is something to think about both while viewing these survey results and more generally when planning. The other reason I wanted students to take this survey is that we developed a new curriculum for the marking period I taught, focused on the Holocaust and Elie Wiesel’s Night. I felt it particularly important to get feedback from students since this was the first year for many of these lessons. Note: At the bottom of this post is an appendix with descriptions of each activity and lesson.
What stood out to me first is that there were some strong reactions to the symposiums, both positive and negative. I think this relates to the fact that some students enjoy having the opportunity to discuss texts with peers, but for some, public speaking is such a daunting task that they couldn’t get comfortable in the symposium format. Either way, the symposiums led to some great discussion and critical thinking, so I would definitely do them again in the future. Other standout favorites include the Stanford Prison Study lesson, the Oprah and Elie interview, and the What Would You Do? roles lesson. All of these activities were supplemental to the text, which gave students more ways to access the material and gain a deeper understanding. The most commonly listed as least favorites included the photo project and the reading guides. In retrospect, the way the photo project was presented to the students might have made it overwhelming; there are many parts to it, so it might have been better to introduce each part individually, instead of giving it all to them at the same time. As far as the reading guides, in the future I would like to come up with more novel, interesting ways to assess student learning on the texts. Reading guides often seem to be very dry, and many students noted that the reading guides were more of a chore than they were actually contributing to their reading comprehension. Overall, the results were similar to what I expected, based on student engagement during these activities.
- This is a combination of the Honors and Academic classes, who did most, but not all of the same activities.
Not all students took advantage of paper conferencing opportunities
I asked students to focus on both what they liked the most and what helped them learn the most, but the majority of students seemed to focus solely on the most enjoyable activities.
I did not include incomplete surveys (i.e. only listed a favorite or a least favorite).
A high percentage of Academic students listed symposiums as their least favorite activity. Maybe these students aren’t as comfortable or experienced with voicing their opinions on scholarly matters.
Descriptions of activities/lessons:
- Elie Timeline – After reading Night, pairs of students were asked to choose the five most important events that Elie goes through and create a timeline with related quotations and analysis.
- Photo Project – Long term project in which students analyzed and researched a pre-Holocaust photo of European Jews and then compared/contrasted that photo to one of their own family photos.
- Slaughterhouse-Five Reading Guide – Students were asked to answer questions related to their readings in Slaughterhouse-Five. (Honors classes only).
- Slaughterhouse-Five Whole Class Symposium – In a large circle, students were asked to openly discuss Slaughterhouse-Five, asking questions and sharing insights. (Honors classes only).
- Night Reading Guide – Students were asked to answer questions related to their readings in Night.
- Night Symposiums – A group of students (usually between 6-8) sat in a small circle in the center of the class and discussed their designated section of Night while the other students around the outside took notes and added their own questions and insights once the initial discussion concluded.
- Night Jeopardy! – Jeopardy-style review game for the Night test.
- Stanford Prison Study Lesson – Students watched a video and discussed the Stanford Prison Study to learn about how power structures affect decision-making and role performance.
- Elie/Oprah Interview – Video in which Oprah Winfrey and Elie Wiesel visit Auschwitz and Elie recalls his experiences in the Holocaust.
- Anticipation Guide – Affective anticipation guide designed to get students thinking about human nature with regards to good and evil.
- Milgram Experiment Lesson – Students watched some short videos and discussed the Milgram Experiment so they could better understand the impact authority figures have on those over whom they have power.
- What Would You Do? Activity – Students read and watched a series of scenarios and were asked to think about how they would have handled said scenarios. Used to get students thinking about ethics and the roles individuals play (bystander, perpetrator, rescuer, etc.).
- Cattle Car Activity – Students were asked to enter a crammed space (marked by tape on the ground) as I played an audiobook narration of the cattle car scene in Night.
- RAFT Writing – Creative writing activity in which students were asked to write from the roles of someone who was living through the Holocaust.
- Paper Conferencing – During writing workshops, students had opportunities to conference with me or my cooperating teacher to help them with develop their writing processes.
- Propaganda Lesson – Students learned about the danger of stereotypes and how the Nazi party used stereotypes to create propaganda against groups they deemed inferior.
As always, I greatly appreciate your feedback, whether in the Comments section or via email!