Cold calling

Have you ever had that really quiet class where you feel like you’re pulling teeth to get an answer out of them?  I dealt with this earlier this week.  Students’ weren’t engaged when we went over homework, a few actually answered questions begrudgingly, and some were blatantly ignoring that class was happening.  I realized that I really need to change how I was reviewing homework so that they were actually seeing their mistakes, how to correct them, and how to best translate sentences.  So, yesterday, I revived a rather old school method–cold calling–to review homework.

At the beginning of class, I mentioned that we were going to go over homework differently: I was going to call on people randomly to answer questions about the sentence we were discussing.  I used notecards with the students’ names on them to randomize the process.  There was some hesitation from students at the prospect of it, but it generally worked really well.

Here are some of the benefits that I observed yesterday and in the past when I have used cold calling more frequently:

  • I heard from everyone instead of just one or two students, so I knew where the whole class’s comprehension level was.  Generally, I was pleasantly surprised with how much they knew whereas earlier in the week I was frustrated with how much they seemed not to know (simply because they weren’t volunteering to answer a question).
  • I could help students work through ideas or rephrase questions so that they made more sense to the students.  For example, when we were reviewing how to recognize different syntactical constructions, one student said she knew how to translate result clauses, but she couldn’t explain it.  So I asked for an example, she gave one that achieved what I ultimately wanted, and we were able to move on nicely.
  • I could model the thought process for translating Latin sentences better because I broke the work down into smaller questions so that everyone had a answer a question.
  • Some of the students who are generally quiet actually volunteered to answer questions.  This was one of the best parts of it, I thought, because they hadn’t been volunteering answers much before.
  • Reviewing homework went at a faster pace than when I waited for someone, for anyone to respond to a question.
  • Students seemed a little more willing to ask questions because they were more engaged.
  • Students were more engaged with the review.
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