- Kindergarten students made posters for their SPCA community service project asking people to donate goods.
- First grade students collaboratively made an ABC book to help the younger students learn their ABCs.
- Third grade students made a PowerPoint shapes game to help the younger students learn their shapes.
- Third grade students made posters for their class play.
- Fourth grade students made travel brochure for a family vacation.
- Fifth grade made Spanish PowerPoint games to help the younger students learn their Spanish.
When I first heard about authentic learning, I thought "Seriously? What kind of authentic projects can a kindergartener do?" But after more careful thought, students kindergarten through fifth grade have all created authentic projects in computer class. Here are some examples:
The thing that is striking to me about these projects is how seriously the students take them. I still remember listening to the First graders debate over what word they were going to choose for their ABC book. One girl excitedly said "I know, C is for Candy. They all love candy!". The younger students love it when the older students make them things. They get so animated when they recognize the voice of one of the older students.
This week, the VAIS visiting team came to evaluate our school for our 10 year accreditation. One of the people who visited was Ann Hamilton-Dixon from St. Catherine's School. She was nothing short of amazing and we were lucky to have her visit. As we talked about different projects, she would share her experiences which helped expand my thinking. At St. Catherine's School they decided to flip the teaching. They had the "younger" students teach the "older" students how to use Cublets which are snap electronics kits. What a brilliant concept. It's easy to see how proud the younger kids would be at this accomplishment. I quickly sent out an email to the lower school teachers and they all loved the idea. Now we just have to figure out what to do and find the time to do it. Spending time with Ann also made me realize the importance and getting out and meeting other teachers to share ideas.
I recently read an article from Edutopia called "Curiosity: The Force Within a Hungry Mind". The article describes how curiosity is the heart of lifelong learning. Psychologists view curiosity as a life force, vital to happiness, intellectual growth, and well being. According to the article research shows:
This year, the first grade class started off the year with the same activity (curated videos, activities). I was thrilled to see how engaged and excited the students were as they watched the videos. After recently reading the Edutopia article, I started to ponder why our fifth graders struggled with "curiosity", while the first graders did not. Perhaps we needed to be spending more time fostering curiosity in the younger years, so the students don't lose that ability. I talked to Mrs. Dixon and we restructured the "I'm curious about" project so it would last for more than a single week. Earlier this week I asked the students what they were curious about and was surprised how quickly they answered. Then I had them draw a picture on the iPad using Explain Everything. I created a blog page for each student with their drawing in the header and curated videos on what they were curious about. I will ask them to click on the comments section after watching the videos and tell me one thing they learned and what else they are curious about. They can do this any time - in school or at home. Each time they make a comment, it will alert me by email to the fact they need new videos. I've recently set everything up and we'll introduce this project next week. I'm very excited and hopeful that this will be a fun and engaging activity for the students.
I also talked to the 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Sadler, about doing the Encyclopedia Game with her class. We'll start off by watching the first part of the TED video. We'll use the DK Find Out! site as our visual encyclopedia. I'll make sure they know how to copy and paste URLs into a Word document (to track their steps in the game). I'll also ask them to add a sentence to the document on what they are curious about in each step. Then the following week they will play the game. I'll monitor their progress and enthusiasm to determine how long we keep the activity going. The DK Find Out! site is extremely engaging and I'm hopeful the students will enjoy this activity.
I don't usually write about things that I haven't done yet and have no evidence of success, but I am very excited and hopeful about these activities. I'll try and remember to write a follow-up blog entry to reflect on our experience and lessons learned. I am optimistic that if we foster our students' natural curiosity in the younger grades, our older students will be naturally curious and we can build lifelong learners.
I just watched a video on the benefits of Active Learning and it got me thinking... The reason kids like computer class, art, PE, kindergarten, etc. is because they are engaged in active learning in these classes. As a new teacher, I learned very quickly to keep the lecture portion of class short. At first I tried to include every detail of information I could think of when introducing the days lesson, but quickly realized kids were tuning out or getting disruptive. What I learned is, kids are more receptive to learning when they are fully engaged in an activity and the information provided is timely to their needs. When I'm helping them with something - they see everything! They see every menu item and mouse click that I make and listen intently as I talk myself through fixing issues. I am acutely aware of this when I over hear them helping a classmate who is having the same problem.
Speaking of helping classmates, I encourage students to help each other and learn from each other. I tell them this in the first class of the year. One thing I've learned is that you have to demonstrate to students "how to help". I explain that you shouldn't do the work for the student having problems. You should talk them through it and let them do the work themselves. That way you can make sure they understand. Sometimes I have to remind myself to "practice what I preach".
I've decided to try blogging. The old Home Page is now renamed Interesting Stuff.