We study Latin roots every day as a warm-up, and after every twelve roots, we have a test. At the beginning of the year, I had students prepare sentences with their new vocabulary words, but I found that they students often misused them and reinforced misunderstandings.
So, I switched recently to having the students create mnemonics for their words. Usually, the students just draw the word's meaning, which is a pretty basic strategy, but I think it helps them remember them.
So, today, they came in with their homework (the twelve mnemonics) and I had them share them in pairs. Then, I asked students if there were any excellent examples that they wanted to share, and I put those on the SmartBoard, under the document camera.
The seminar takes a few minutes to set up.
First, I had to make sure that everyone was seated in the right place (kids who read Hill House in the inner circle; kids who read Something Wicked in the outer.)
Then, I distributed the rubrics and assigned everyone someone to review (Sally, you are reviewing Johnny, etc.)
Then I collected the inner circle's homework, which was to create their own question to address in the discussion.
Finally, I pulled up the timer on the Smartboard (using an online countdown stopwatch.)
And, we were ready to begin!
The format of the seminar is that each group gets 20 minutes to address four questions. They had the questions overnight, so the students could have taken copious notes, etc., and we did an activity yesterday wherein they answered a few questions with their peers.
I didn't tell them ahead of time that they would get to choose the questions that they would answer, but I did give them options. Each group had to answer two out of the four questions about their novels, either question 7 or 8 (which I chose yesterday so that they could have one question that they were 100% prepared for) and a "wild card" (student-generated) question.
Overall, both seminars went really well. My Hill House group included my powerhouse readers (it does start out a little slow and scared off some other kids), so they had a lot to say. I was really happy with the lack of "dead air" in all of the discussions; this is definitely an improvement over discussions that we did earlier in the year.
Since many kids often leave seminars wishing that they had said something or said something differently, I like to conclude with a few minutes for them to write down anything that they wish they had said.
This also gives me a good sense of who is developing those metacognitive skills and can evaluate their own contributions, and who is still relying on me (or any teacher) to tell them how things are going.