Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Unfortunate Story Exercise

The Unfortunate Story Exercise: Recognizing a Diversity of Student Experience

With limited classroom time, it can be difficult to get to know students personally. I love this idea by Deborah L. Borman as a way to break the ice with international students at the beginning of the semester. Here's the exercise:

"Write a story about something unfortunate that happened to you, explain how you handled it at the time and what, if anything, you would do differently were this event to occur today. This assignment is limited to 250 words. Please be prepared to read your story aloud on the first day of class."

 Professor Borman says that she uses the activity not only to get to know her students, but also for assessment purposes:

"As an initial assessment tool, the Unfortunate Story allows me to evaluate: (1) whether the student can
follow directions, i.e., did he or she follow the word count limit and the details of the assignment? Did he or
she read the written story to the class or just recount an event out of his or her head; (2) the student’s writing skills, i.e., basic grammar, punctuation and sentence formation; (3) the student’s oral communication skills, i.e., whether the student is comfortable speaking aloud, any foreign language diversity issues that may require ESL coaching or other educational attention; and (4) whether the student may require attention for personal or psychological issues, i.e., to identify possible academic performance accommodations and make referrals to the appropriate professionals."

Read the rest of Professor Borman's article here. The article is published in The Law Teacher, the semi-annual newsletter of the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning.

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