Last summer, elementary school teacher Michael Kellogg at Williston Central School was a participant at VFC's Summer Institute, and this fall he began to implement his learning from last summer. Both Mary and I have been visiting his classroom and have observed the impressive classroom culture he has created. One thing that was a big learning experience for me was allowing the students the space to think about an issue or a lesson before responding. Mr. Kellogg frequently gives students the space to process what is being introduced or discussed, allowing the students opportunity to put new ideas in to their own words, with the space to articulate what they don't understand. Mr. Kellogg also has 'public records,' where notes from the day's lessons are written down and can be pulled back up for students to reference in future conversations.
With our numerous visits to the class, some simply to support the use of technology, we have been able to bear witness to a combined third/fourth grade classroom's learning: how to ask questions, how to identity the difference between "easy" questions and more challenging or thought-provoking questions, and when the right moments are in the course of an interview to use each kind of question. The students were tasked with learning how to operate iPod touches with microphones attached through an interface - a small adapter. This created many opportunities for students to interview each other, listen to what they had recorded, identify mistakes and try and learn from these technological hiccups.
After students had practiced interviewing quite a bit with each other, Mr. Kellogg invited adults from the school community into the classroom for students to again have another practice interview opportunity. The video below shows the process of students practicing their interviews with each other and ends with adults from the school.
We find Mr. Kellogg's approach working very well. The idea behind all the practice is to eventually have students interview their parents or grandparents. Mr. Kellogg has brought to our attention a body of research that indicates that students who learn about adversities that their parents or grandparents overcome helps them learn resiliency in their own lives. The metaphor of 'weathering the storm' helps youngsters understand how to bounce back from hard times and allows them the guidance and space to understand how to overcome adversity. We are looking forward to the students' final products and are hoping we can eventually have the students interview each other about the process. This reflection could yield very interesting insight into how the students relate to the family stores, how they express those stories to their peers, and how they see themselves in the process.