I'm really enjoying the two classes I'm teaching, but for different reasons. I was thinking about this tonight as I was listening (eavesdropping) on my students as they were working in small groups, discussing a journal article I'd assigned.
In Monday's ENG 100 class (this is a class in which we do a lot of grammar work in the form of worksheets, which I'm not too crazy about myself, but I need to start somewhere), we had our first break-out discussion. I'd assigned the third take-home essay of the semester; the writing prompt is: "Do we have a responsibility to provide financial security to the elderly? Why or why not?" And while not everyone had an opinion, it was the first time a discussion spontaneously happened. The class is a different animal than the ENG 105 class I teach, where I focus primarily on discussion and group work; in ENG 100 there's much more grunt work that needs to be addressed.
The students in ENG 105 are much more likely to have opinions, although not all of them are comfortable talking in front of others. I do, however, have a number of older, non-traditional students who are in their 30s or older, or otherwise married, have children, full-time jobs, etc. They're much more joke-y with each other, and just generally more relaxed. I also have them work together more, peer reviewing each other's drafts, discussing readings, etc., which helps break the ice; there's not the same number of opportunities in ENG 100. I like listening to my students talk to each other and tease each other, express different opinions and really analyze why they think the way they do.