Your very brightest students can harm the group dynamic, usually without meaning to do so. Some kids just “get it” miles in advance of their peers. They make connections that are so astonishing in their depth and complexity that their classmates flinch from admiration and intimidation. Try calling on these students selectively and seek to recruit them as discussion aides. I generally take such students aside and ask them to play a particular role in discussion. (It’s amazing how many don’t realize how bright they are!) I generally solicit their input after discussion has unfurled a bit so it appears more as a collective thought than an individual one. In some cases I’ll even ask them if they will ask redirect questions of a peer response such as “Can you tell me more about what you mean?” I’ve had some success stories from this, including students who decided they wanted to become teachers. Caution: Students have the right to decline the aide role. If they do, you will simply need to limit how often you call on them.I think we can all recognize that a very competent student can dominate a class negatively without even trying. I certainly agree with calling on such students "selectively." But I'm not so fond of Weir's suggestion that you enlist your superstars as "discussion aides." Part of intellectual maturity is to recognize when you need to stand back and let others have a larger role in the learning environment. Being put in a position of semi-authority reinforces the superstar student's sense of her 'specialness.' I'm wondering if there are better solutions here. Any ideas Wakers? Are there ways of turning the superstars from attention hogs into resources for other students without seeming to make the superstar into a co-teacher?
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
When the superstars shine too bright
Lazy, unprepared, intellectually overmatched and/or irresponsible students can disrupt the dynamic in the classroom. But Rob Weir reminds us that the hardworking, well prepared, capable students pose their own threat to the classroom dynamic. Here's how Rob handles this: