A “Typical” Day in a 1:1 Classroom (Part Two)

6 Feb
Beaver Country Day School

Robin working with his students

I love to know when my posts are “landing” or not, so please comment if you find this line of reflection helpful. When I sat down to record my thoughts on how teaching in a 1:1 classroom influenced one school day, I was not prepared for how many thoughts came out. This post is a continuation of  A “Typical Day” in a 1:1 Classroom: Part One, so read that first if you have not already done so:


Rhetoric 11

Membean Vocabulary Quiz / Discuss the class novel / Honors lessons / Revise literary analysis mini-essay

I see my classes five hours per week, with an optional sixth hour available for additional one-on-one help. This means three days a week I have a one hour block, one day a week I have a two-hour block, and one day per week I hold optional office hours during an “x-block.” This schedule has had the biggest positive impact on learning of any schedule I have ever encountered in my teaching career.

As in my sophomore classes, I began this class with a vocabulary quiz via Membean (explained in part one post):

Additional advantages of each student having a personal laptop:

  • While students take the vocabulary quiz, I run a report of their Membean activity for the week [see below]. I require students to log at least 50 minutes per week and encourage them to complete short sessions (5-10 minutes) every day. Through the report I can tell who has completed the work in a timely manner. I can even tell if students have just left the program open for 50 minutes but not used it continuously during that time. (Unfortunately, I…like you…have some students who cut such corners.) After the quiz I quickly check in with each student, addressing issues of incomplete work.
Membean Post

A weekly Membean report

After the vocabulary quiz, we discussed our class novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. When we hold class discussions, all but one of the laptops are closed. Each day the students choose a Student Scribe (an idea I got from Darren Kuropatwa and Alan November. The scribe takes notes for everyone and shares them via the class wiki. Students might open their laptops in a teachable moment or when on-the-spot research is needed, but for the majority of this time my class discussions operate much like any analog English classroom.

Also, at my school, honors students and standard students are not separated in English classrooms. Instead, honors students complete additional requirements, one of which is taking over the class at least once a term to deliver a lesson that helps everyone read the class novel more critically. On this day, honors students led activities introducing the class to the motif of baptisms and connecting Citizen Kane to the novel. I led additional conversation about the novel after these lessons.

Advantages of each student having a personal laptop:

  • The Student Scribe system proves to be invaluable for absent students. They have a better sense of what they missed, and the students take on the responsibility for synthesizing and communicating the day’s learning.
  • Most students review the Scribe Notes before major writing pieces. They appreciate the reminders regarding class content, and I can direct a student struggling to include adequate textual evidence to review the scribe notes, encouraging more self-sufficiency.
  • Students can learn from students in different sections. Just yesterday an absent student did not find his classmate’s post very helpful, so he read the post in another section and got what he needed. Some students even go to notes from past years!
  • Students still take personal notes in their books, but they don’t feel as much pressure to get everything down. They are much more likely to “stay in the moment” and make meaningful contributions to our activities.
  • Access to the class wiki is seamless because everyone has a laptop. They have a variety of ways to take notes and share them with one another. They get to use the method and platform that works best for them…and THEY DO THE WORK. I purposefully pass this organizational task to them and often have them help one another before I will jump in with advice.
  • On this particular day, the discussion ended with fifteen minutes left. No problem…I simply had the students pull up their essay revisions and started an impromptu revision session.

In my experience, the “wired” classroom is not disconnected, chaotic, and impersonal. Laptops have simply been an invaluable tool that helps me create a more efficient, focused, student-centered environment where students the ownership of the learning shifts from the teacher to the learners.

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