The Waiting Room

2 Mar

It takes about five minutes for all my students to make it to class. We’ve been remote since last March, so that means entering the Zoom room. Every morning I set up my waiting room with a question, a video, a cartoon – something to engage my 6th graders while they await their classmates. They can respond aloud or in the chat. At this point in the year, I can predict how each will reply.

Some students reply a lot, some prefer to read or listen to the replies of others. It is low stakes, so I sometimes hear from kids who don’t participate in more academic pursuits. I try to vary what I post, appealing to the wide range of interests of my students. Some like CNN10. Some like the Dean the Basset videos. Some like responding to a picture and a question. Some like talking about their personal lives. For each student who likes each things, there’s another who dislikes it.

On February 23, scrambling for what to post, I turned to an old favorite: The National Day Calendar. There are often multiple celebrations and February 23 was no exception – it was National Banana Bread Day, National Tile Day, and National Dog Biscuit Day. As a dog lover, I was tempted by the latter, but opted for National Banana Bread Day because there was a video, so I posted it. Above the video I asked students to tell me about their feelings for banana bread and bananas.

You’d think something as mundane as a banana wouldn’t elicit much passion. I should have used my own feelings as a gauge. I don’t love banana bread, but will eat it, especially if there are chocolate chips. I like my bananas with a hint of green in the skin and will not eat them if they are turning brown. It turns out my students had strong opinions too. The oral and written conversation, one of the best we’d had all year, revealed that my students were all over the banana map. Their comments led to stories. One student talked about baking with her mom. Another shifted the conversation to lemon bread and his grandma. I told students how my mother always said the bruises were the sweetest part and how I now wondered if that was just something she said to justify eating a rotten banana. She grew up during the Depression and hated wasting food.

It was our own little slice of life moment, revealing tiny things about ourselves. It had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson that followed, but it was far more important.

6 Responses to “The Waiting Room”

  1. WOWilkinson March 2, 2021 at 7:08 am #

    Thanks for sharing. I love hearing about how you’ve built relationships and developed conversations while remote (so tough to do).
    We’re a green banana family.

  2. arjeha March 2, 2021 at 8:24 am #

    You never know what will engage students and produce interesting conversations. They say cooking at home has increased during this time so I guess it makes sense that food would be a hot topic. Me, I like bananas but am not a fan of banana bread.

  3. terierrol March 2, 2021 at 11:06 am #

    So often it is the unexpected, unplanned stimulus that elicits the biggest response. What a great connection with your students. I only like bananas, nothing banana flavored!

  4. jumpofffindwings March 2, 2021 at 11:11 am #

    I love this, and it is always amazing when, out of nowhere, a topic generates such passion. We had a similar experience talking about our favorite snacks during Advisory. Planets align, thank goodness! (Food seems to be a universal talk-generator—even with those who don’t like it, maybe especially those guys.)

  5. Lisa Corbett March 2, 2021 at 2:37 pm #

    I love that you spend so much time on oral language skills with your older students. I did some “see/think/wonder” routines with photos while we were learning online and the discussion was always lively. I should get myself together and do some in person. 🙂 They fit so nicely with online learning so there’s no reason to think they won’t work in person.

    • Adrienne March 2, 2021 at 2:44 pm #

      I do it more for community building. We have never met in person!

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