Several of the advanced and AP English classes at New Kent High School will take advantage of Google Groups and WikiSpaces to provide opportunities for students and teachers to discuss summer reading during the, uh, summer! Students in Mrs. Pushie's advanced 10th grade classes, Mrs. Jenkins' 11th grade AP language classes, and Mrs. Sargent's 12th grade AP literature classes will be joining private online groups to discuss their ideas about the summer readings before their return to school in September.
Students in Mrs. Sargent's 2011 and 2012 AP Language classes started using the group discussions and found that they helped not only with reading and understanding the works before coming to school but also in beginning to know each other and become more comfortable with topics before the rigorous classes began. Another advantage to the online discussion is that every student must participate in the discussion. In some classes, a few students might be very vocal, and shyer students might not feel as comfortable jumping into the discussion. In the online setting, many students who are hesitant to speak up in class come alive in the online conversation. Everyone has an equal opportunity and expectation for the work. On the "sneaky teacher side," students practice their reading and writing when posting to the online discussion, giving students summer practice in both essential English skills.
The interactive online setting is private for the students and teachers in the class. For the past several summers, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Valdrighi, and Mrs. James, NKHS administrators, have also been invited and have been "silent" observers of the summer discussion to see how involved and dynamic the summer work has become. After participating in the summer chats, many students talk about their comfort in using online media discussions and finding them helpful in understanding what they were reading, in asking questions of other students as well as the teacher, and in gaining more immediate feedback which allows for stronger and better discussion of the essential ideas in the readings. Teachers welcome the ability to interact early to prevent misconceptions or misreading and to begin knowing their incoming students prior to the first day of class. The online classroom discussion becomes a win for all involved!