Tuesday, June 22, 2010

District 9 drafts

Today I am beseiged with drafts about the film District 9. The students are struggling not to make the papers merely summaries of the plot, and some, several not the ones I would have expected, have come up with inventive and interesting interpretations of the camera movement and techniques of the film to help argue their claims.
However, some of the better students, more traditional in their training and thinking, are having trouble getting their minds around this film, which appeals more to the guy mentality of some of the weaker students, with its violence and action. That is often the way it is with film papers. Some people who haven't done particularly well in the rest of the class, writing about literature, suddenly begin to shine. I like to do that, and the students for the most part have responded by really liking the film and the whole idea of the assignment.
Today there was a bit of an incident in the class around the issue of a weak peer review group, composed mostly of the dregs of the class, people who don't do the work.
There is one very responsible student in the group, and I wanted him to remain there, anchoring a new, improved group. But the rest of the students refused to budge, since they liked their groups and found them helpful. I should have insisted, but I backed down, upsetting the responsible student, who thought I was discriminating against him because of his race, dooming him to remain with the irresponsible students. I was of course horrified when he told me that, and apologized, but it is a problem I don't particularly know how to solve. These sorts of groups do crop up. How have those of you who teach addressed this issue?


Lou said...

I don't force a good student to be in a group with otherwise poor students, especially late in the semester when everyone has shown their colors. I let the poor students form their group and realize that no one wants to partner with them.

The problem that I have with groups is that often a good student will sit with a group of poor students for social reasons, then realize at some later point that this was a bad idea. I sometimes say to students like this, "You might want to sit with the stars."

Robbi said...

I didn't force anyone to be in a group. This student was in the group because he chose to sit in the back, and I wonder whether that wasn't caused by his self-consciousness about his race. The others were in the back to hide from me. That's how they got together.
Now the other groups are tight and working well. No one would move to the back of the room. I would have been glad to leave the poor students on their own, otherwise. But there were too many in each group, and I couldn't get them to split up.

Rebel Girl said...

I'd let the student move to another group, despite the problem with numbers.

When I work with groups, I try and shift them with each assignment or exercise focus - and then manage the poor workers as best I can. I am very aware that good stduents can be poorly served by some group dynamics and I do my best to avoid it or at least make up for it when it does occur. I never force a student to stay with others whose work is lacking - epscially if that will damage his or her own progress.

They're learning a lot in our classes - and it sounds like your student is speaking up for himself and what he knows he needs. That's an important lesson.

Robbi said...

You're right about letting the student go elsewhere, and letting the poor students drag each other down. And I was impressed also by that student's speaking out for himself so eloquently and clearly.
I think that he ought to sit elsewhere in the class though. Maybe next time he will.