I’m on my way back from New Zealand today. In the course of doing some training down there for NZ Rugby coaches, I met a music teacher from the South Island named Sam Hadfield. He’d been experimenting with a few carefully chosen techniques—Cold Call, No Opt Out, Right is Right—in his classroom with generally positive results but over a beer he mentioned one adaptation he’d tried that I found really intriguing.
We’d been discussing the use of sentence parameters in writing. Sentence parameters are rules or challenges given with a writing prompt such as “use the word exponential” in our answer or start with the phrase, “After the revolution.” I discuss them in the 2.0 version of the book as part of the Art of the Sentence technique.
Ah, Sam said. He often used something like that with Cold Call. That is, when he cold called a student he might add a parameter like, “See if you can use the word ‘pitch’ [again, he’s a music teacher] in your answer.”
I thought that was a simple but pretty brilliant adaptation of the technique. You could use something like that to make a Cold Call a little easier for a student but you could also use it to make it a bit more challenging. And if you did it with some frequency you could help make those slightly nervous kids a little more successful on their first Cold Call and then seamlessly offer some clever challenges for students who liked to rise to the challenge and the whole process would be invisible to kids… just part of how you did things. I’m not saying to add a parameter every time, but just every so often so it’s normal.
I’m sure Sam has better examples, but I thought it might look like this (I’m not very strong in Music so I tried something from History instead):
- To make it a bit easier for a student: Tell me one important outcome of the Great Depression. Try to use the term “New Deal” in your answer.
- To make it a bit more challenging: Tell me one important outcome of the Great Depression. Glory points for you if you describe a key banking reform.
Anyway I thought Sam’s idea was really interesting. Would love to hear from anyone who does something similar or who tries out Sam’s idea.