Philosophical Chair Friday!

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I recently became a member of my campus’s AVID Site Team.  This summer, I had the honor of attending the AVID Summer Institute and attended an amazing session–developed by an elementary school friend’s husband!

One of my big goals this year is to incorporate as much AVID in my classroom as possible.  Why?  Well, first of all, I believe in it.  Second of all, so many activities and strategies fit right into the performance-based curriculum that I teach.  As a member of my school’s site team, I have the duty to encourage teachers to incorporate AVID in their classrooms, and what better way can I but by sharing what I have tried successfully?

Right now, my level 3 students are discussing their strengths and weaknesses.  It has become very apparent that the majority believe you should work on your weaknesses in order to make them strengths.  Interestingly, research does not support this.  Before watching a video about the topic, I saw an amazing opportunity to try the AVID activity Philosophical Chairs.

Basically, I posed a statement (in the target language, Spanish) and students had 10 minutes to think about it, plan out argument points for either or both sides.  I encouraged them to argue both sides during their planning time in case they changed their mind upon hearing others’ points.

After 10 minutes, we went into one of my school’s collaboration spaces.  Those in agreement with the statement stood on one side of the room, those opposed, stood on the other side.  The wall that ran perpendicular to the two sides was for undecided.  I acted as mediator, and began by calling on someone from the “defense.”  Next, a student from the opposing side posed a statement, responding to the previous comment.  This went back and forth for the duration of the activity.  As students heard a good argument, they could switch sides and speak on behalf of their new opinion.  Each student had to speak 2 times to get full credit for the activity.  If they spoke once, they got partial credit.  If they did not speak but completed the written activities, they received minimal credit.

At the end of the activity, we returned to class and did some reflecting about how their opinions changed/didn’t change, how openminded they were, what was frustrating and what was successful.  I found that in my smaller classes, the activity went more smoothly (imagine that!!!), but even my larger classes had a lot of fun.  After reflecting, we watched the video and the students were overwhelmingly surprised that research supports focusing on strengths more than on weaknesses.  We will continue with our video activities and reflections next week.

I had so much fun yesterday!  Throughout the day, I heard kids commented to each other as they left how much fun Spanish was and how fast the class went (something that seems to be vitally important to high schoolers).

I can’t wait to try more AVID activities!

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