Friday, June 1, 2018

Cultivating Curiosity through Final Exams

I’m looking forward to exams. (No, I haven't lost my mind.) I realized a while ago that our world doesn’t necessarily need people who can identify all the characters in a given Shakespeare play and which significant quotes they said. It does need people who are curious, work on finding answers, and share their findings with others. (This is not a new idea for my students. I try to cultivate their questions throughout the year: see last week's blog.) So my English exam is: “Given what we learned in class this semester, what ELSE to you want to know, and how will you share that?” It’s sort of like “Genius Hour,” but it’s “Genius Week.”

We spent a class period reviewing all the reading we’ve done (fiction and nonfiction), all the writing we’ve done (passed back portfolios), and the themes we’d discussed, and then brainstorming in writing what had caught our attention, that we’d like to explore further. Now students have 5 class periods for research and 1 for practice before the exam presentation.

Here are some of the things students are working on:
  • One student wants to look further into personality and values formation to resolve what she sees as inconsistencies in the “Who Am I?” paper she wrote in response to our study of the modern drama A Doll’s House.
  • One student wants to find out how and why decisions about movie scoring happen because he was intrigued by the use of music in the 1999 movie of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which we watched after studying the play,
  • One student wants to find out more about the author Haruki Murakami and his relationship to the Japanese writing community because we studied his novel After Dark.
  • One student wants to research further the meaning of a Franz Kafka short story we read in class and determine how it fits into his worldview.
  • One student wants to follow up on the theme of human dignity, which we introduced first semester in our study of the Holocaust memoir Night, and trace it through works we studied second semester, connecting it ultimately to current events.

Exams are the week after next. I’m looking forward to reviewing lessons about presentation skills by watching clips of TED talks, and to conferring with students about what they're learning from their research. And then, I’m looking forward to exams!

And then, I'm looking forward to summer. (See, I told you I haven't lost my mind!)

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