I had written before about how I was going to use this week’s blended time to conduct book interviews with students about their outside read books. Those interviews have been this week and they have been great (mostly). Students schedule themselves in for 8ish minute meetings with me. They talk about where they are in the book and what has happened so far; I ask some follow-up questions and we go from there. Grading is based on how well they know the book / how specifically they can talk about the book. (Some students even brought notes, which I hadn’t thought of, but is certainly a good / valid idea; I even had one student bring only her (outside read) book and her notebook, which I assumed had notes in it; as it lay there closed, I told her that, if there were notes in it, she was welcome to use them, at which point she revealed about a page per chapter.)

I am constantly struck during the blended week how different students are one-on-one vs. in a classroom setting. I of course know this intellectually, but to see it in action is quite striking. Students that are silent and reticent in class become articulate and insightful one-on-one, for me one of the greatest benefits of this (ongoing) experiment.

As I was going through my first interviews, it struck me that a rubric might be worthwhile, i.e. a checklist of items for both me and the student to look for / go for. On the other hand, though, such a project is exactly the reason I am wary of rubrics. I have so enjoyed the organic nature of the conversations, and I’d be afraid that using a rubric would make them much more mechanical, i.e. students would become too beholden to the rubric and the conversation would lose a lot of its spontaneity / natural progression.

It also occurred to me that such an approach would work well for books that we read in class as well, that to incorporate such meetings, likely shorter individual meetings to avoid taking so much time, would be an excellent way to check in with students, not only in terms of comprehension / keeping up but also allowing them a forum within which they could ask questions or get help with specific things, especially for some of the more difficult books that we read (I’m thinking especially here of the Iliad).

So definitely a successful experiment and one that I look forward to continuing.

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