Countdown Mode – Ideas I Want to Commit to This Year

Tomorrow morning I have my last committee meeting before classes. Saturday we have a series of orientation activities and Monday we finally meet our new classes. I know that I am more likely to stick to a resolution if I make it public, so here goes a brief post to hold myself responsible.

As I have written before, I attended a morning session at TMC16 this year that focused on creating a classroom environment that encourages discussion and debate. I think that I have done a good job in the past of creating an environment where small groups have meaningful conversations. What I have not done well is to shake up those group dynamics or to help my students take ownership of their own ideas in presenting them to the class at large. I will be making a couple of changes this year to address each of these issues.

  1. Visible Random Grouping – At the encouragement of a couple of Lisas (Lisa Winer (@Lisaqt314) and Lisa Bejarano (@lisabej_manitou)) I will be using flip this year. I just entered the class lists for a couple of my classes and started playing with it. Pretty pleased so far, I must say. Since I was the type of student who liked to just settle in and speak with the same people all the time, I have given in to that tendency as a teacher. I was convinced by a number of conversations – both in person and through twitter – that I should try something different. I am committed to randomizing my groups at least on the first day of each week. If there is some special activity that needs different sized groups, I will change them on the fly. I am interested in seeing how this play out and I will be writing about this as the year goes on. Two of my classes are currently small enough that we will all sit at one committee sized grouping of tables. The other two will be split into pods.
  2. I am asking the maintenance folks at my school to remove my teacher desk and chair. I want to decentralize myself. Too often students look to filter their ideas through me before they are presented to the entire class. I have a couple of ideas about how to change this. First, by not having a desk there is no logical place to look for approval. I often move around anyway, but I hope that removing my desk means that I need to mingle among groups even more and become less of a central figure int he classroom. I am also committed to an idea I picked up at TMC. When a student has something to say, either a question or a statement, I will sit and that student will stand. We will all attend (hopefully) to the person standing and talking.


I am excited about the upcoming year and about these commitments to creating more space for my students’ ideas to take central stage in my classroom. I look forward to reporting back to everyone.


2 thoughts on “Countdown Mode – Ideas I Want to Commit to This Year”

  1. Jim, I love the changes your are making to create a more student-centered classroom. I hope you’ll keep us updated on how things are working out. It will be interesting to know how your students respond, and also to know your reflections. Have a great year!

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