I like to improvise when I teach. It keeps it interesting, for me and for the students. I walk into the classroom, knowing what we need to cover that particular day, but I don’t know how we’ll discuss it. That’s when the improvisation kicks in.
A month or so ago, I came up with the idea of “The bag of questions and comments.” Basically, the students can write down on little slips of paper any questions and/or comments they have about the material we’re covering that day. In doing so, the bag represents the collected intellectual capital of the class; and, the student can protect their anonymity, thus allowing them to be a bit more bold when it comes to questions and comments. There are 2 rules that we follow:
- I have to answer any question asked
- I have to read any comment submitted
The rules make it all the more interesting, and risky, because students have asked questions such as “What’s your greatest regret?” or “What’s the meaning of life?”
I told the class early in the term that my favorite all-time question is “What’s that all about?” You can ask it of just about anything, a way of requesting further information or explanation. And that’s what I want my students to ask for. The other day, a student wrote “What’s that all about?” and put it in the bag of questions and comments; it enabled us to go back through all the other questions and comments and delve in a bit deeper.