When I wrote the post below back in 2009, I had no idea that our democracy would completely implode this year. Somehow the “correct answer” didn’t float to the surface when it mattered most.


Anyway, this one is from back when I used to do a full-blown 5-6 page research paper thing. And one of the things we worked on leading in was outlining. They always have a lot of trouble with outlining, so I wanted them to try to help each other. Whodathunk that nowadays you HAVE to do that?

So yesterday I told them that this outline will be on the test, but I would give them 15 minutes or so right now to work together, open mouth stylie,  to fill it in. Then they could bring the sheet for the test. I told them I wouldn’t tell them whether their answers were correct or not, but I would try to steer the discussion in the right direction.

Oh boy. Each class showed a distinct “governing” style, and each one accomplished the task (or didn’t) according to the style of government. I’ve talked about how much fun it is to watch open mouth quizzes unfold, but this one was more fun than usual. Warning: Multiple metaphors ahead.

Period A: This class was the closest to a democracy; messy and disorganized, but somehow, most of the correct answers floated to the surface eventually. At first it was just the loud ones that got listened to, but as in a democracy, eventually the crowd figured out who was most reliable. This class went ’round and ’round, but arrived at mostly correct answers.

Period B: This must have been what the dark ages were like. Everyone was staring with puzzlement at the screen, and loudly begging for answers, “What’s IA? What’s IA? How about IIC?” Then the search for a wise man. “What does Annie say? What does Doug say?” Then small cults surround those that seem to have more of a clue. “I’m going with Andrea.”  This class didn’t even finish, except for those few “wizards.” It was a trainwreck; more like a third world country.

Period C: This was a benevolent oligarchy. Three or four of the strongest students basically figured out the answers amongst themselves, working quite well together, but almost ignoring the little people. Then when they were sure they had the correct answers, they deigned to share them with the class. Few questioned their word, and those that did were given polite explanations for why they were wrong.This class got every question correct.

Period D: This was communism that worked. Of course it helps that this is the nice, polite, supportive class with Politeness Girl at the helm. They began with Politeness Girl saying, “OK, first, why don’t we all copy what’s there first, and then when you’re finished, you raise your clicker to show you’re ready, and when everyone is ready, we can go over the answers one by one. OK?” And they actually mostly did just that. They didn’t do the clicker-raising part, but they sort of methodically came to an agreement on each item, and then…the best part. With two minutes to go in the period, Politeness Girl makes sure everyone has the same answers by going over the whole thing. “OK, IA is…right? Everyone has that, OK?” And so on. It was kind of inspiring. Sniff.

Period E: This class simulated the breakup of the Soviet Union. They almost immediately broke up into independent republics of 2-5 kids.  Some of these republics had a strong work ethic, and found their way to the right answers. Some of these republics metaphorically swilled vodka and traded stories, and ummm, didn’t really find their way anywhere. A couple of these groups even sent out envoys to other groups to “trade” (read: mooch) answers.