Friday, January 23, 2009

Top Chef Too Mean?

Maybe it is too mean. My poetry/nonfiction class version goes like this. The students break into small groups with their writing and a ballot that lists the criteria for the writing. They vote in their small group for who the winner is. The winner goes into the ring of fire, also known as the vast expanse in the middle of the room when all the desks and chairs are in a circle. Then, they read. We vote. In the first poetry class, I had them vote by ballot and didn't have time to tabulate the winner. Last night, in nonfiction, I had them vote by raise of hands (making it seem, I hope, a little bit less official). But then when girl yelled out, this is hard and one student only got one vote (his group should have voted for him at least. They as a group seem disengaged).

I like the idea of competition because it makes them, in their small groups, not just be like "I love this. You're so great." And it makes them take the exercises seriously. But maybe the last Top Cheffery bit should go? If I had time, I would have the groups vote and then defend their decision, ala Tom Colicchio. That would be the best student-centered learning option but maybe overly complicated.

To Molly: I don't know about Stefan. I think I like him. I definitely like Fabio and the way that they both add a new edge to the Top Chef. Yes. I'm going to say Stefan rocks. Although he's no Jeffrey. Because blonds can cook! (and he's the best looking of the chefs, in any of the season.

To MaryAnne: No kidding. Isn't a list enough propulsion? I'm about to propel my food book over the cliff.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

It might be a bit too mean... but, maybe you should position it as a competition between the groups.

Instead of dividing the whole class into competition groups, designate one group the judges (maybe those with the highest grades or something... the oldest ones or whatever). Then, each group has to explain and defend their poem and the judges decide the winner...

Nik said...

Yeah, I think having them defend their choices is the point. And so to make enough time to do that, I'll just have to shut up a little more in the beginning of class. Which is a good idea anyway.

Maybe next week, this week's winners could be the judges!

Condiment said...

What level students are these?

I think Top Chef works because all the contestants have been cast to mix well (and poorly) together and because all the contestants REALLY WANT TO WIN. Everyone is topped up with bravado.

Maybe it's hard for some of your students to get ubercompetitive about their writing.

I think it sounds like an engaging, fruitful exercise, but maybe I wouldn't if I were intimidated by others in the class.

BTW, I always hated group exercises! I would rather present by myself!

Nik said...

Dear Mr. Mint,
They are intro students so their care-level at this point is low--which is one of the reasons I wasn't too worried about the mean. And maybe the competition will make them care.
I'll see how it goes this week--if nothing else, it's not boring.

Lisa B. said...

I like the idea of defending their choices--it's a good one and I will take it up, definitely. Plus, it's fun to connect with a pop culture phenom. And Top Chef (and, I guess, Project Runway) are the best at this--because there are aesthetic and technical criteria--so the analogy is applicable and therefore useful.

I like the philosophy factory's idea as a possible changeup. And I like that you have the energy to think of something not boring--and that the idea of aesthetic/technical criteria might come more forcefully into play in the very, very soft arena of creative writing workshops!

P said...

I find that competitive seniors really want to know the rules and what will make someone win, and what do they get if they win, and they feel bad if they aren't successful. I'm assuming your students are older.

My true high school teacher advice, is have the enemy or other team be someone else: an invisible enemy, another class, the perfect example poem, the kids from last year. It could even be their total score as a class for their writing from last time. having another competition be out of the room everyone collectively against someone will help them feel successful as a group.

Or just tell them if they get enough points you'll cook food for them.