Staring at Spoons

At the beginning of the year, when I first read my students’ self-evaluations, I made note of common goals (better speaking skills, spelling, etc.)  and listed student names under every goal that seemed applicable.

I should also mention that on the very first day I handed out permanent markers, and plastic spoons upon which they wrote their names.  This past Thursday, I dumped their cutlery on the floor and stared at them. Consulted my lists. Shuffled.

When the class arrived, I called out groups of 3 to 6 students and asked them to figure out why. What did they have in common? Why would I group them this way?

They came up with some zingers.

They also eventually started coming around to their language goals. Some of them found common ground on their own. Some of them needed help. But they all seemed a bit startled to realize that common ground really was there–with these people. Huh.

I told them to come up with their own learning goals. You pick the objective. You set your own goals. Replace something in your final portfolio with your own assignment. You’ll have every Thursday to work on this. Let’s see how it goes.



As I visited with each group, I saw brilliant things happening:

We want to prepare for college entrance exams. 

We wanna  know how to get inside the readers’ heads.  

We don’t want to lose our voices when we write on assigned topics.

We just want to read. Lots. 

Their words, not mine.  No school district or curriculum board or teacher in the world could have come up with these goals for them. But they did.  They did.


Now let’s just hope I don’t get myself fired.

2 responses to “Staring at Spoons

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