Alfonso Mendoza is in his 11th year of teaching and currently teaches 5th grade science and social studies. Alfonso emphasizes the value of student voice and collaboration in his teaching, but has found that students’ hesitation to speak up in class can be a barrier.
“It’s very difficult to engage a student in a conversation in a classroom if they are self conscious,” he says, “they don’t want to raise their hand, they’re very shy.” The hesitation can make it hard to know what gaps to fill in students’ understanding, which he feels is critical to his teaching. “I really need to get students’ feedback, and it’s very important for me as a teacher that way I know exactly what it is that I need to teach, and I can fix any misconceptions.”
I really need to get students’ feedback, and it’s very important for me as a teacher that way I know exactly what it is that I need to teach,
This year, Alfonso started using Recap, a safe edchat tool, as a way to check for understanding and develop his students curiosity and questioning skills. He found that students had much more to say, even his most quiet students. “They feel a little bit more at ease. It helps me bring them in and share with them the level of question that I’m looking for in class.”
Now they’re helping each other and engaging each other in their conversations.
Like a Twitter chat but safer, you can easily get started with Recap by setting up 5-10 questions for students to respond to by chat or video. It also includes more advanced options to gather student questions and introduce new topics through Journeys. Alfonso was able to get new insights on his students that he wasn't able to obtain through traditional means and adjust his teaching in response. “I can set up a new Journey for them so that it reminds them of what it is that we’ve done in class.”
“Now they’re helping each other and engaging each other in their conversations and in their answers and in their videos, so it’s really neat what I’m seeing in the classroom. What I love about Recap is that it is breaking students out of their shell, it’s given them a voice.”
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Developing student questioning skills
Alfonso also started using Recap to gather student questions. He also found that having a private space for questions led students to ask better, deeper questions than they were willing to ask in class. “I have students that will ask the basics, ‘Can you explain reflection and refraction again?’ but I do have students that take it to another level and they’ll say ‘Sir, what would happen if…’. So I get the ‘what would happen’ questions that they may be shy to ask in class because they feel like ‘well, I don’t wanna sound either too smart or I don’t wanna have people laugh at me.’”
Once his students started feeling secure asking more meaningful questions privately, Alfonso was able to encourage them to continue asking these questions. “It helps me bring them in and share with them that this is the level of question that I’m looking for in class.” With their permission, he started sharing these great student questions with the whole class, and found it created a dramatic shift. “It has changed the culture and the community in my classroom, and not just simply asking the basic definition-type of questions, now they’re at the ‘what if this happened’ or ‘what if we do this’.”
“You start seeing that the questions start developing, their self-esteem starts developing, and now it becomes a collaborative environment.”