Well, if anyone were following this blog, they'd be mighty disappointed, since I've been posting at the rate of one post per month! Outside of being busy, as we all are, with various school duties, I'm somehow reluctant to post unless I feel I have something to say. Another issue is that I come lately to the entire Web 2.0 world, and I've never gotten into the swing of either checking or commenting daily. There's a part of me that is turned off by the concept of Twitter; yet I can certainly see that it has been useful for some people.
My email exchanges are moving along. My students and I have gotten a number of responses from both our French and Spanish classes. I have a picture of the town, Perigueux, in Aquitaine, in which our French correspondents have their school posted on our class wiki. I'm thinking of some kind of summing up exercise for my kids, in which they combine information they've received from their French correspondents to try and get a picture of what their school is like.
Meanwhile, I'm moving ahead with a version of my 6th grade Humanities course which features very little lecturing at all. As I've mentioned before, I've tried to be very specific on what I want my students to get out of a particular section, and have institutionalized this in a list of "Find Outs" or short points for identification. For my current unit, Reconstruction, I've put in for each item a "identity" and a "significance" header, following what the 7th grade teachers do at my school. I split up the "Find Outs" among the kids, each researching one and posting their answers on the class wiki. I also include some broader questions, some of which I also assign as homework. When I write the test, I have them fill in the identity and significance of some of the "Find Outs" and write answers to one or more of the questions I've put on the wiki.
So far, I'd have to say that it's been a screaming success. The students are engaged, and all of them do at least passing on the tests and most do very well. In the meantime, they're actually reading the textbook, or at least parts of it, using chapter headers and the index to find subjects, and synthesizing what they know in their own words.
One of my colleagues pointed out, however, that taking notes during lectures is a skill that is needed in upper school and college courses. Hmmm...have to think about that. Got some ideas already, but let's see what happens. When I ran that idea by my students, however, they were almost unanimous in their lack of enthusiasm for lecture, and my sense of some of them is that they are too restless or too distracted to pay attention during a lecture of more than, well, five minutes. At least, that's my impression judging from when I give instructions....