Friday, February 13, 2015

The Voices of China, E01: What Did the Students Like From This Semester?

At the end of the last school calendar year, I met with all of my fifth graders one-on-one to ask them questions concerning class, my teaching, and how both could improve from their perspective. That was only done at the end of the year since it was my first time doing it. Therefore, since our first semester was going to end for Chinese New Year a few weeks ago, I thought it would be suitable now also. More opportunities for students to speak up individually and collectively give them deeper purpose for their critical thinking.

What I have found so funny and unsurprising is that students' thoughts usually agree with current research and methods on teaching as well as parenting. My prime example for both of these would be from last year. I asked every student if they felt respected by an adult who yelled and said bad things to them. Not one of them said yes. It's love they desperately want, but how we give it to them needs to be considered firstly. (I would list all the research and articles normally here, but the list would be too long.)

On to this year where I prompted my batch beforehand:
1) What is something I/we did this semester that you liked?
2) What is something that you did not like?
3) Do you think you did well in my class? Why or why not?
4) Do you have any questions for me or about the class? 

With the range and depth of answers given by the students, I thought what better way to detail the students' wonderful voices than with a series? Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Episode 1 of "The Voices of China"! (Side note: The series' name derives from The Voice of China, a TV show in...umm...China.) On to question 1 (cough cough), Episode 1...

1) What is something I/we did this semester that you liked?

Games: A high percentage all three of my fifth grade classes mentioned this without hesitation. I wasn't at all baffled because of the fun and learning that took place simultaneously numerous times over the semester. I asked for individual favorites. I went deeper with the question and sought advice for myself and how to deal with students who get upset when they lose. "Comfort the losing team. Tell them don't be sad. It's just a game. It's not that important. Losing is okay." This came from my most competitive student. 

Group PowerPoints: In groups, students chose an endangered animal to research and make a PowerPoint about to present to the class. The students took advantage of their time: in the computer lab researching and creating the PPTs, in the classroom to prepare what they would say, and in their various methods of communicating. I trusted the students, and they gave me more reasons to do so. Almost the whole time, I saw them come alive since they were able to use the internet in lieu of the one book we have for class, which ashamedly focuses only on the sea otter.

TV Show/Movies: I'm not afraid to admit it. After every unit test, I give the fifth grades choices 1) go outside to play games of their choice or 2) stay inside and watch a movie or TV show. Every time, option 2. Why? They have a plethora of worksheets from Chinese, Math, and their Chinese-English class to last the 40 minutes in mine. So they relax, (choose if they want to) work in a more relaxed environment, laugh, and chat with each other. It didn't bother me. In fact, it made me wonder. Could students make movies? Yes, they said. Did they know how? No. Do they want to? Yes. This conversation led to blogs, videos, other ways to use computers, and on the list went. I had to type everything in my Evernote before I forgot any of their brilliant ideas!


Now, here's the kicker in all these discussions. I didn't push students to understand me. I listened to them, asked questions, and showed them sincerity with my nonverbals. I wanted to let them know, "I want to hear your voice. Your opinion matters. You matter. So talk. I'm here for you." I believe it has been working because I have received so much honest feedback. So much that there are going to be four or more episodes about it.

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