by Dana Huff,
One of the most important lessons I took away from the Teaching Shakespeare Mini-Institute in Decatur in June 2008 was a quick assessment Mike LoMonico modeled called “I Noticed.” We sat in a big circle after an activity or at the end of the day, and we each finished the sentence that began with “I noticed…” It was an opportunity for us to talk about what we had learned, anything we had learned. It could be a simple check in about how we were feeling, or it could be some profound connection we had made. Either way, Mike and the other instructors accepted all of our responses.
At the end of class one day the following school year, I decided to try out “I Noticed” with my own students. We had about five minutes at the end of the period. My British Literature and Composition students had a really good class in which everyone was on his or her feet acting at some point. We had reviewed subtext and tried some exercises before getting in groups and using subtext and movement to interpret lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I started with “I noticed how much fun it was when everyone participated and got involved today.” My entire insides screamed YES! when one student said, “I noticed how reading the text and trying different subtexts and acting made it easier to understand the play.” It was the best five minutes of my teaching all week.
Since that class, I occasionally use “I Noticed” as an assessment, and not just when I teach Shakespeare. Everyone must participate, even quiet students, and I often have valuable feedback on my teaching and on students’ learning. One day last year when studying Macbeth, the quietest, most reluctant student in my class said “I noticed how it is easier to understand Shakespeare when you have to act out the scenes because you think about what they mean.” I noticed that, too.
Dana Huff is a Teaching Shakespeare Mini-Institute 2008 alumn, and a full time English and Writing teacher at Weber School in Atlanta, GA. She will be presenting on Assessment at this year’s National Conference for Teachers of English in Orlando, FL with Folger Education Staffmember Carol Kelly.