Thursday, August 14, 2008

An accidental moment

I accidentally stumbled on a brilliant teaching moment today.

I've been teaching my 11th graders the basics of story. Tomorrow they're interviewing a guest speaker so they can learn how to write a biographical article, so I was going over what kind of questions to ask an interviewee.

One of the things kids tend to do is ask really simple questions - Where were you born, how old are you, etc - or really general questions - what's your life like?

So I was trying to show them that you needed to ask the right questions. I asked one of my more obnoxious children, "What's your personality like?"

And he faltered and said, "I'm always happy."

So I said, "Is there a moment in your life that illustrates how you're always happy? A story you could tell that would show us that element of your personality?"

See, I was thinking I'd show how when you ask general questions the interviewee doesn't really know how to answer them.

But the boy threw me a curve ball.

"When my brother died," he said. "I wasn't sad. I didn't cry. I was happy."

We looked at him, silent. His eyes were getting a little red and wet.

"I was happy because he's in a better place."

We stared at him for a minute.

"Wow," I said. "Thank you for sharing that."

Then I turned to the class.

"Do you see the difference? How when he just says he's happy it's not nearly as effective as what he demonstrated when he told us about his brother?"

I got a chorus of emphatic "yesses" including his from all over the room. And for the first time when I had the kids write down the eight questions they plan to ask my guest speaker tomorrow, I had a really good set of lists.


  1. Anonymous10:17 PM

    Wow, that's a great moment.

    *grabs a notepad and writes it down*
    Hmm... Jerry. No, Bradley. Yes, that will be his name...

  2. Sometimes kids are awesome.


  3. lol. Now that's an Oscar-worthy scene :-P


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