Monday, August 31, 2015

We have ways to make you talk--sometimes

The classroom is abuzz with chatter as small groups of students discuss what they've observed in a film clip--one group focusing on setting and costumes, one on character development, one on plot--but I notice that one group is strangely silent. 

"You need to be discussing what you've observed," I remind them. 

No response.

"In a minute I'll be asking your group to report to the class, so be sure you've got something to report," I say.

They just sit. They're not even looking at each other. One of them leafs through the textbook while another bounces a tennis ball on the desk.

Time is up. The class needs to move on. What do I do?

The other groups provides plenty of fodder for class discussion, but that one silent group offers essentially nothing. I ask leading questions that end up being answered by members of other groups, but the silent group maintains its silence throughout the class.

After class I ask one of the silent group's members what the problem was. "I don't know," she shrugs; "Nobody wanted to talk."

From my perspective, it didn't look like anyone in that group even tried to talk. What is the problem here? 

I suppose it's possible that the silent group contained only students who hadn't done the reading, but here's the thing: they could have answered the question without having done the reading because they were responding to a film clip I had just shown them. 

So there's something wrong here but I don't know what it is. Maybe those four students have some history with each other (already?), or maybe they thought I wouldn't notice that they weren't doing the work. I don't know.

What about next time? It's a small class, so in future I may have to arrange group work so the silent ones don't all end up in the same group. What I'd really like, though, is a way to make them talk.   


Bardiac said...

That's weird! Are they first year students?

Bev said...

Yes, in a class I've taught enough times to know that this isn't how it usually goes. Strange.

Contingent Cassandra said...

Sounds like some sort of odd anomaly. And all I can think of is to break them up, at least for the moment. At the very least, you'll get a clearer sense of whether it's the individuals, or the group chemistry, or a bit of both. Here's hoping that they each work better with others in the class than with each other.