I had my Elementary Composition students do a pretty cool exercise this week. They’re working on including details and examples in their writing, and we did an exercise where they had to choose details and examples in the room and write a paragraph showing how they feel about school in general.
But that wasn’t the really great exercise. The really great exercise was when I had them pair up with someone in the class whom they don’t know as well as others. A few people were resistant to any novelty at all and ended up with friends, but most followed this instruction. Then they sat face-to-face and looked at their partners for a few minutes. This was the weirdest part of the exercise, something I was aware of but which was driven home even more powerfully in a class where student numbers were uneven and a student ended up being my “partner”. So I had to remind people that they weren’t just looking at one another for fun, but to pick out a number of details — I told both classes ten but it might be too many.
After a set amount of time looking at one another, I told the students to close their eyes and visualize their partners’ faces. After a few minutes of that, where they tried to pick out details from memory, I had them once again look at their partners for a minute. This was followed by them writing down the list in their notebooks.
For homework, they had to try to write a paragraph that did not give the name of the partner, but described the person so well that the class could pick out the student who was being described from the description. One group was told to blog the description, and the other group was told to bring in copies with the author’s names on them, but without the name of the person being described. We’ll do a little reading exercise with them next time, I think.