The "Aha" Series: In Middle School, Not Speaking in Class is Not the Same as Not Paying Attention

This week, we asked our Middle School literature teacher, Shelley Sommer, to share a favorite story that illustrates a moment of joyful discovery when an idea really clicks and the “aha!” epiphany brings new life to learning.

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Shelley’s Quiet One Story

During one of my Middle School literature discussion groups, we were reading a novel about the life of a family of migrant workers in California. This particular book was the first part of the author’s memoirs, and it was my hope that we would have time to read the sequel.

One of the boys in the class was pretty quiet. He did not actively participate in the discussions, but when I directed a question to him, he seemed to have a good sense of the novel. Near the end of the book, I told the class that, unfortunately, we would not have time to read the second book. However, I told the group—which included about 10 students—that I had copies of “part two” for anyone who would like to read it on their own. After class, only one student asked for the book—and it was the quietest member of the group. As I gave it to him, it reminded me not to assume a student’s opinion of a novel based on their in-class comments. It also heartened me to know that the story of this young migrant worker had touched this student.

[This post originally appeared in Rhythm & News, the Inly School newsletter, on May 15, 2009.]

In addition to being head librarian and literature teacher at Inly School, Shelley is the author of Sommer Reading, A Blog About Books.

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