Through all of it, I feel like I'm coming back to the same main skills over and over:
- writing complete sentences
- using words correctly in meaning and syntax
- understanding how words break apart into roots and how prefixes alter meaning and suffixes inform what part of speech
- summarising complex information
- making inferences based on evidence
- choosing good evidence
- building background knowledge
That last bullet point isn't one I've focused on much in the past few years. I love following student curiosity, and answering random questions they come up with. However, I haven't always given it the class time because I've felt the pressure of time and curriculum pushing me on.
One of the best things about small group is the conversation piece. They are willing to ask WAY more questions in that setting than in the whole class, and we've been able to follow their curiosity much more often. It's also probably why they all say small group is their favourite part of my class.
One question I get a lot from all different kinds of students is this one: "Why do we need to know about Anne Frank/the Holocaust?"
In the past, I've given the stock answer: because we don't want it to happen again.
But now, I'm trying to develop more of an answer for them. Things I'd now include:
- Knowing more about the world makes us want to know more, and makes us more curious. Curiosity is one of the most important traits humans can develop
- Knowing about it helps us connect with other people more, and helps us develop empathy for the experiences of others, especially those who are unlike us
- Antisemitism still exists, and recognising it is an important step in cutting it off. You can't recognise it if you haven't even heard the word before
- Some experiences, like reading Anne Frank in middle school, are expected. It's one of the most popular texts across the nation for middle schoolers, and has been for decades
- She's a lot like us, despite the cultural, linguistic, and chronological differences and it shows that some aspects of human culture are just universal
I'm working hard to make sure students feel like they can ask any question and I'll take it seriously.
With one exception: the student who has asked me how Anne Frank could read and write if she was blind and deaf.
They asked that question three separate times on three separate weeks.
That one left me a bit incredulous.