Thursday, June 19, 2008

Off on a tangent

Sometimes when I’m in a discussion, I love when the conversation goes in all different directions. It is a lot of fun and a lot of interesting things can come up so sometimes I encourage going off on a tangent as I sit back and listen to the conversation. Sometimes I can get inspiration for a lot of lessons this way, which makes it more relevant to them than the original lesson that I planned. I feel if they can talk about an issue, it would be a great “teachable moment”. For example, let me give you a sample conversation that might take place in my high school special ed classroom.

Me: Today’s lesson is focusing on an article that I found on the computer.
E: What’s it about?
Me: It’s about the flooding in the Midwest.
T: We have a computer at home.
K: My sister was using the computers and got caught on some place she shouldn’t have been.
E: My brother got an email from a friend who said he was going to beat him up for talking to his girlfriend.
T: He shouldn’t have talked to that girl. That’s not right.
K: I like to email girls that I meet. It’s easier than talking to them.
J: Go to Myspace. You can meet lots of girls there.
T: I’m not allowed to go there. I wouldn’t be able to use the computer anymore.
E: My mom keeps looking at the computer when I’m on it. I hate that.
J: My parents better not do that to me. I have my computer in my room and they can’t get on it.
From this conversation I could teach the following lessons:
· Digital Citizenship
· Cyberbullying
· Social networking
· Internet safety
· Appropriate Social Interactions

I also make sure this possibility is listed in my lesson plans to cover “social skills.” I don’t do this too often because the students would take advantage of it as a way to get out of work but every couple of weeks or so, if it happens, I give them the freedom to go off on a tangent. It sometimes helps them focus better on assignments because they may have some issues bottled up inside that just has to be let out. I do make it a stipulation at the beginning of the year that we will not talk about sex, drugs, or illegal activities but all other topics are open. It is also fun to come home and share the turn of the conversation with my husband, as his head spins around. I guess only a teacher can keep up with this!

Photo credit: Off on a tangent as graph by stevegarfield

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