Improvisation in the Classroom

Because some days, it's better when nothing goes according to plan.

Yesterday's Plan Didn't Happen

As a key part of this UDL website, my goal is to prepare thoughtful, educational online materials for my students before I stand in front of them to lecture. Honestly, the idea of simply "lecturing" is not something I like to promote — talking at your students for an hour accomplishes very little. Sure, some of your students might retain some of what you've told them — most, however, will zone out.

For today's class, that didn't happen. I've had a plan in my head all week about today's topic: we were going to talk about how Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" can illustrate some fundamental aspects of rhetoric and research.

But then life got in the way. A doctor's appointment, getting my son to school, a missed meeting. (Here's an irony: I missed a UDL meeting because I didn't check the notifications on my phone because I was working on this UDL website. In technical terms, I think we call this a technology fail...)

But All Is Not Lost

Getting ready for bed last night, I decided to still talk about "I Have a Dream." Driving my son to school this morning, I mulled over how the activity might run. Mentally, I rehearsed my plan for the morning class:

  1. Students in project groups would discuss their plans for Friday's assignments.
  2. Students would discuss "I Have a Dream" in randomized "groups of the day."
  3. I would give a presentation about using secondary sources to discuss primary sources.

For the morning class, this worked impressively well. When students were in their project groups, I rolled my chair around to talk with each group and make sure each student knew what types of secondary sources they might use for their rhetorical analysis. And then we got to "I Have a Dream." For this, I gave an introduction, and I found myself talking about aspects of the 1960s and media studies that I had never before connected with Martin Luther King. And then described how this connects with research, and the difficulty of finding reliable sources — especially in a world where Neo-Nazis used MartinLutherKing.org to change Google search results, as reported by Daily Beast.

So, yes — the morning class turned out incredibly well. But in the afternoon, it didn't quite go to the main parts about "I Have a Dream." The conversations about the research project ran a bit longer, and then there were questions that took a bit longer to address than I expected. By the time we made it to Martin Luther King, only five minutes remained.

But still, it was a good class. And there's a reason I've reserved multiple class days for this conversation.