For the first KELTchat of the new school year, we thought it might be fun to learn more about the experiments teachers were interested in trying. Despite the lack of talk of bunsen burners and beakers, there wasn’t any shortage of experimental thinking during this chat. We discovered that many teachers are excited and eager to try new things, and that KELTchatters are adventurous learners.
Our non-experimental, tried-and-tested moderators for the evening were Alex Grevett and Mike Griffin. And in case I’m not able to bring a voice to each teacher who joined us, I’d like to list them — and also recommend you follow them on Twitter — to show our gratitude for making the chat such a lively and inspiring one: @TomTesol, @RhettTeacher, @bryanteacher, @AnneHendler, @AmelieKelly, @GemL1, @citoyennemondia, @hallg, @AlexSWalsh, and @ChopEDU.
Alex G. offered up the first question:
Why should teachers experiment?
Many of us agreed that experimenting keeps teaching fresh. This freshness is connected to the learning — about learning and teaching –that Gemma believes is important. Rhett’s take on experimenting is that it is play and that we all learn while we play. :)
A few spoke of the idea/importance of change:
- Tom: “Because it helps us change, and the world’s always changing, so sort of implicit that we need to change witht he world? If we resist change, we’re changed anyway. Experimenting is embracing change, controlling the way we change, for the better.”
- Mike: “I also think experimentation is a nice way to “try on” a new technique and a chance for us to learn as teachers. Otherwise we are just prisoners of what we have seen and done thus far.”
- Georgeanna: “There’s always a different &/or better way to do things because each group of students is different. I also have to experiment because at KAC, we often have new courses given to us so I experiment based on similar experiences from the past.”
- Amelie: “I think experimenting requires embracing challenge and requires being somewhat organized to do something new!”
Amidst all this, a small discussion about the value of “set procedures” came up:
“I think set procedures tend to ignore the differences in students to some extent” , stated Alex G.
“always thought of set procedures as a framework that allows useful experimentation,” replied Tom.
“agree as long as the T is flexible with their ‘set’ procedures and whats within them,” intervened Gemma.
“sometimes frameworrk is imposed… makes experimenting a fun creative challenge,” shared Tom.
And with this, the discussion ended.
Mike then asked:
What kind of experiments/changes do teachers usually make?
- Trying new activities
- Altering order of items we cover
- Adding new features (such as journal groups)
- Playing around with warm ups
- Timing teacher wait time to make sure students have enough thinking time
- Experiment with student attitudes and risk levels
- Asking students to talk more in their homework assignments. > @AmelieKelly will bravely be fielding KakaoTalk messages to help them achieve this goal.
- Starting new schools! > @RhettTeacher :)
@citoyennemondia instigated a little back and forth exploration on seating arrangements. Circles? Lines? In one of her experiments, Anne found out that circles were the least successful. Tables or no tables? After a trial, Suzanne discovered (and perhaps triumphantly), that tables were the way to go… for that particular context. It of course all depends on who and what is in the classroom.
@hallg and @TomTesol discussed ways the use of Twitter, Google Docs, blogs and other things tech to monitor and engage students in online discussions. I recommend tweeting them with any requests for details on this matter. :)
Many teachers mentioned they wanted to engage students in reflective activities. Georgeanna mentioned that she is consciously doing this and also trying to get the students using the word “reflection” more. Alex G. is “trying to get the students to be more conscious of the learning process. I’m trying to ask a reflective question at the beginning of the week, so that it’s already in their minds……and then they write a short journal entry at the end. Eg question: “What did I notice about Eng this week?” Alex W. shared his idea of reflective “Exit Slips” (Here is a lesson plan and here are example exit slips).
What are you trying out this semester?
- Rhett: I am testing out a 12 week journal. Exit time = journal (feeling, participation and learning) and I am experimenting with advertising, selling seats in my class, while focusing on having fun.
- Georgeanna: major exp: I’m trying out journalling groups in one class of Integrated Skills. they have a small slip of paper they’re intro’d to, & print or handwrite then fill it out each class – give to me @ end.
- Bryan: with help of @gemL1‘s blog I’ve started filming/self-observing my teaching. Want to experiment w/ lots of little parts of lessons. I also want to design more content-focused lessons. I’m teaching 중 writing now. So experimenting with ways to build content focus. This sem I have more to prep…have given self permission to plan more quickly for adults class. So gonna exprmnt with quick! prep
- Chop: Inspired by @GemL1 and @breathyvowel micro-reflections, I’ve started experimenting with these in class. bit.ly/WD7un1 I’m planning on having a ‘silent day’ in the not-too-distant-future as well. Nice idea @GemL1!
- Gemma: This week I’m going 2 experiment with silence-try to speak less & give Ss more time 2 answer qs etc mayb try a whole class silent
- Mike: I am back to using wikis after a couple year lay off. :) I find pbworks to be pretty intuitive and easy for all involved.
- Josette: I repeat my instructions too much. 10sec silence after instructions. New exp.
- Alex G.: I’m experimenting with not monitoring too much in fluency activities (or any time), and encourage students to try to self-monitor. Guided reflection forms and recording may feature heavily. Questions (pre-introed) about things they found difficult, things they think might be wrong. Then they can ask me Qs.
- Alex W.: encouraging St reflection (not easy with high school Ss) is my big experimentation this semester.
And that was it! Jam packed with trials, goals and great learning. If you think I missed something here, please check out the word for word chat at Storify. Remember to click through the pages at the bottom.
Blogs about experiments
- Alex Grevett’s small, yet cosmic experiments can be found at, Thinking big, making small changes.
- Gemma Lunn shares her own six week challenge where she experiments with self-observation.
- Kevin Giddens encourages Pedagogical Tinkering through the Experiential Learning Cycle.
- Tom Randolph blogs about three experiments he’s trying this semester.
Video about tinkering (Thank you Bryan!)