Questions to keep my students thinking.
October 14, 2009 12:58 PM   Subscribe

I want to show my students Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" video. I would also like to have them answer some questions about it, but I'm stuck. Some help?

I teach a high school Human Relations course. This month we're going to be talking about topics like freedom, different ideas about the meaning of life and happiness, resilience, etc.

The lecture is so good that just watching it will probably get them thinking, but I'd like to give my students some critical thinking or discussion questions to answer after watching.

I'd be grateful for any ideas.
posted by CrazyLemonade to Education (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Last Lecture is not about "answering" "questions".

It is about what it means to be alive. That's not something you can grasp in a group discussion, at least not easily.

Please—I say this both as a student and a human being—do not make your students submit to "critical thinking" questions about a dead professor searching for what it is to be an actual person.

Let them ask their own questions, and I promise you: you'll get a lot more out of what they have to say than an order list of queries printed on a piece of paper.
posted by trotter at 1:15 PM on October 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

Are you familiar with PostSecret*? I would love to see what questions kids ask as a result of seeing this lecture--and would be fascinated to see their responses as a collective yet anonymous visual project in the PostSecret spirit. That may help to spark discussion in a way that regular teacher-to-student questions might not.

I would link, but there are no cards up this week, argh.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:54 PM on October 14, 2009

My gf recently used this in a lesson she taught to a 9th grade class, I'll ask her for her thoughts and post them.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:56 PM on October 14, 2009

trotter: do not make your students submit to "critical thinking" questions about a dead professor searching for what it is to be an actual person.

That's not my intention at all. I want them to think about their own lives, their own childhood dreams, plans for the future, etc. (Which in fact is what I took away from the lecture when I saw it myself when it first came out.)

Plus, this is not the main purpose but: You have to remember that these are high school students, and they need some extra incentive to actually watch the video, otherwise they just go "nap time!".
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:41 PM on October 14, 2009

from the gf:

"When I had my students watch it at the beginning of this year, I started our conversation by brainstorming on the board what stood out most to them and why. We talked about things they could/should expect from themselves, and then tied it all into our school theme of "Believe" (each class had to make a 'believe' statement for themselves).

Here are some questions that could get the discussion going:
- What choice would you make if you were faced with the same situation as Randy Pausch was?
- How do his ideas affect your attitudes with school? work? family? life?
- Suppose you were in Randy Pausch's shoes and had an opportunity to give a lecture to a large group of people. What would you choose to speak about and why?
- What is it about his Last Lecture that has captivated millions of people around the world? I mean, he was just a simple college professor."

Hope that helps!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:49 PM on October 14, 2009

Thanks, blue_beetle. It does help.

To everyone else who's reading the question: I'd still appreciate any more suggestions!
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:13 PM on October 14, 2009

I have to say, I agree with "trotter." I, too, teach (college composition and research methods) and have actually viewed this very interview and asked myself the same questions about how I could turn it into a "teaching moment." The conclusion I came to is that, just as trotter expressed, you can't. There's no way in the world I was going to make up "analysis questions" about that. Here's what I can tell you, though. I haven't done this as of now, but it's coming up in the next few weeks...
Go to YouTube and in the search engine, type in "Piano Stairs." I know, but just trust me on this one. Watch the clip that comes up first, and think about how to relate that with the "Last Lecture." And best of luck to you and your students!
posted by lucky25 at 12:21 AM on October 15, 2009

It's me again! 'Piano Stairs" will teach the daylights out of those kids about happiness and resilience. And creativity, too!
posted by lucky25 at 12:24 AM on October 15, 2009

i understand what trotter and lucky25 are saying about analytical questions, but i also understand the need for some kind of follow-up work to prevent naptime or chatter during the lecture. you don't need analytical questions, and indeed, they won't be very helpful. but you do need reflection questions.

if it were me, i would make the post-lecture assignment as open-ended as possible. i would probably give my students a writing prompt - something like, "what i learned from Randy Pausch, and why it matters." leave it at that. if it's open-ended, they can take it wherever they want. if you're concerned about tangential answers, tell them you'll be having a discussion about their answers later, and you'd like some students to share their thoughts.

good luck!

by the way, the course you're teaching sounds really interesting! what grade level is it? is the curriculum already formulated, or is it fairly flexible?
posted by gursky at 5:46 AM on October 15, 2009

Ok this is from a student's point of view. All through my educational career I have focused on one thing and one thing only...what do I HAVE to know and do to make an A. Then when I was an undergrad I took a class from a teacher that was from the experiential school of thought. There were no tests. There were no assignments. You learned what you wanted to learn. You took away what you wanted to take away. I learned more in her class than I ever thought possible. For once in my entire academic career I wasn't so focused on memorizing stuff so I could later regurgitate it back up onto paper to make an A. With that out of the way I was actually able to just LEARN. I think if you step back and let the kids take the lead (frightening prospect I know) they will surprise you. Tell them about the video and that there will be no test or assignment. Then, let them watch it. After they watch it, remain silent as you turn off the tv. If you are quiet long enough one will raise their hand to comment, then another will respond. Next thing you know their will be a class discussion with a swapping of true ideas and beliefs...not scribbled answers on paper that they think sounds like what you want to hear.

Randy's lecture was all about being in the moment. Let the kids be in the moment and not forced to prove that they are going to pay attention by requiring them to write something. Let them discuss what they want to. Don't lead them with writing prompts or discussion questions. Let them really self reflect and discuss what they are feeling and thinking after seeing the lecture. Let life happen in your classroom instead of assignments. Just this once. :)

Whichever way you decide to go with this, I hope you come back and post how it went.
posted by GlowWyrm at 9:54 PM on October 15, 2009

« Older Book review work?   |   Fun things to do in Santa Cruz? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.