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Guest Writer: Arpine Ovsepyan, M.A.
“What did you learn in class today?”
This is a simple question that helps open the door for thought-provoking classroom discussions, serves as a formative assessment, and provides closure to a lesson. For a little over two years, I have made the commitment to never end a class without asking this question because I was finding that although students would work diligently to complete assignments in my English class, they were never given an opportunity to share their insights with their peers. Too often, I observed classrooms where the teacher would engage in a one-way communication cycle where lectures dominated their instructional techniques. Right before the class would end, the teacher would ask the proverbial question, are there any questions? To which a comatose group of students would respond, “No.”
However, with the collaborative nature of the Common Core State Standards, by starting this daily class ritual, I successfully transformed my class into an environment where all students engaged in lively class discussions.
To set this procedure up, I recommend choosing a lesson objective that can be easily covered in one class period. Next, I set up think-pair-share time within the lesson to keep students engaged and check for understanding. As the students do their class work I circulate and provide support as needed. But, to truly experience those “ah-ha” leaning moments, I learned the importance of investing a good five-to-ten minutes at the end of the lesson for students to pause and reflect on what they learned.
The first time I did this, I collected exit tickets to a critical thinking question for To Kill a Mockingbird, "Why does Atticus decide to accept the job of defending Tom Robinson?"
The results were mixed and I realized that waiting a whole day to review the answers to the exit tickets delayed valuable feedback to my students.
So, the next day I directed the students to write down answers in their notebooks and share with a partner. These results were phenomenal! Then, students were directed to share their responses with the class. At that moment I realized that we are now teaching a generation of digital natives. This time in class to talk with a partner about what they learned mimics the online chat rooms and texting they engage in on a daily basis with their peers about topics that interest them.
The only difference is now a teacher is moderating the conversation and students are held accountable for their learning. Also, the social aspect of this end of class discussion is critical because it helps bring the lesson full circle and helps teachers know where they should launch the next day’s instruction, or if I need to re-teach a concept the class missed. Lastly, it helps students develop their academic voice, reinforces the value of thinking independently, and creates a positive classroom culture where everyone is encouraged to share their knowledge.
In order to capitalize on the strengths of our students to display their knowledge on our daily lessons, I encourage teachers to venture out of their comfort zone and incorporate this technique and be ready to see sparks of learning ignite in your classroom as you ask students: “What did you learn in class today?”
Bio: Arpine Ovsepyan is an award-winning educator and Class of 2007 ASCD Emerging Leader.