One day about 4 years into teaching I walked out of my room and into the math office, which was actually carved out of a corner of my room. The teacher working there turn to me and asked, what is this frufra stuff that you do? I looked at him funny and asked what we meant. What he meant is exemplified by the video that I attached here.
I did not at the time know the answer. Every day I start by introducing myself and my subject. I then ask for any questions comment thoughts or ripe tomatoes. During this time anything, well almost anything, goes. The rules of frufra are:
- You may ask any question, give any comment, or make public any thoughts you would like.
- Frufra is done when it ceases to be a whole group discussion.
- There is a third rule, but it is a secret.
At the beginning of the year it is short. Some days it is short. Other days it lasts for a whole class period. Everyone is equal, and students quickly learn what topics will inspire more conversations and which ones less. I was struck by Vivian Gussin Paley's Article in Harvard Educational Review titled On Listening to What Children Say when she says, "Whenever discussion touched on fantasy, fairness, or friendship, participation zoomed upward." (page 124) This is very true. We all like to listen to stories that have their basis in reality. Students need this as well. They learn from their peers and what grabs attention.
I get a lot of questions about physics. This is important because I teach physics. I get a lot of questions about science. I get questions about life and school and family and myself. I get stories about brothers and sisters and dogs. About sickness and health, movies and sports.