Not-so-Silent Wall Conversation Activity

20130405-105840.jpgWednesday was our first day back from Spring Break, and, as you might imagine, the students were lackluster in their enthusiasm at best (Minus one student, Steven, who admitted that he was bored at home and wanted to come back; I love it when students admit that!). With this in mind, I made sure we did something in class to get the students up and moving.

In community college, there are often professors who struggle with classroom management. Many of our students struggled in high school, therefore they have certain behaviors that they employ to mask their academic weaknesses. I have found in community college these behaviors mostly include talking, texting, and getting up to use the bathroom a lot. I can shut those behaviors down fairly easily compared to the high school behaviors of cursing, fighting, Turrets-like outbursts, getting confrontational with the teacher, and sleeping. But to professors who have taught in different environments, specifically 4-year or graduate schools, a room full of students who don’t shut up is challenging.

One thing I suggest to professors struggling is to match your lessons/teaching strategies to energy of the class. If they are chatty, have them engage in activities that allow them to talk/debate/discuss material from class in small groups. If they are high energy, allow them to move. Don’t fight them! Think of your students as a big wave. You are in the ocean and a big wave is coming towards you–what do you do? You certainly don’t stand there and think that if you stand tall and strong that you can conquer the wave. That’s silly. You dive into it. Your turn around and body surf. You ENGAGE it. That’s necessary in the classroom as well.

Wednesday we needed to wrap up the novel Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. I did this through a Silent Wall Conversation Activity. Although with my students–in the excitement of being reunited and general chattiness–it was a Not-so-Silent Wall Conversation Activity.

Here’s what you do:

1. Break students into groups of 4-5

2. I gave each group a topic we had discussed in relation to the novel (History of Immigration in the United States, Assimilation Theories, The “Model Minority” Stereotype, Racism/Discrimination, & Wild Card–Choose your favorite quote). They had to find a quote from the novel that related to their assigned topic. They wrote the quote on chart paper.

3. Each student gets one marker. If possible, all different colors, but that’s hard when there are 25 students. The key is that the student should be able to be identified by his/her color marker.

4. Students get up, walk around the room, and respond to the quote and/or their peers’ responses to the quote. They can agree, disagree, write their thoughts, opinions, comments–whatever.  They are to keep their language academic. They are supposed to be in conversation with the quote and each other on the chart paper and through their writing.

5. After all students have commented on all the quotes, each group goes back to their chart paper/quote and reads the feedback they received. They circle the comments that stood out to them and discuss why.

6. Each group shares out what feedback stood out to them and why to the class. This proved to be a great way to defend the quote they selected, explain further how they read it, or engage their peers in conversation. There are some small heated debates from this part of the activity!

Overall, it was a great way to wrap up the book. It was not at all silent, but I was okay with that because they did the activity well and took it seriously. Below are some photographs of their charts from class.

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One thought on “Not-so-Silent Wall Conversation Activity

  1. This is a truly fantastic activity! We’ve just kick-started a mini unit on pay disparities between men and women and I was looking for a novel group discussion activity that’ll get my kids up and moving. Looking forward to putting your idea to the test! Please continue to post teaching strategies on this blog.

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