My 8th grade English class has been studying debates for the past week, and is getting ready to present at an ASM this week. In preparation, I have been trying to get my students comfortable with public speaking and thinking spontaneously. One exercise we did last week split the class in half, and required them to give their opinions on a controversial topic. We took turns hearing from each side, and students were allowed to move sides as they felt persuaded. One student in my third period is a very shy and quiet girl, although she shows her intelligence in her written work. She had participated in the debate by moving from side to side periodically, but it seemed that no matter what I said or did, she did not feel comfortable speaking aloud, today or any other day. However, when I called for the last three comments of the period, she raised her hand and contributed the strongest point of the debate. She convinced all but two of her classmates to join her side, which ended up winning because of her comment. I later used it and acknowledged her in my fifth period class, and could not have been more proud. That moment showed me that if I can create a comfortable environment for students and raise their energy and passion about a subject, even those who I least expect will become engaged in new ways.
Success! Renee in Norfolk