Wednesday, November 3, 2010

This Is Why I Do Teach

I meant to post this last night, but the election results got in the way (sorry, occupational hazard).

Today was a great day!! I had great conversations with my honors students in the morning about the first party system and the election tonight. But that wasn't why this was a great day.

That happened in my last two classes of the day, and both in classes where I am doing layered curriculum. In my first experience, I watched as one of my students walked another through the process of making a VoiceThread recording of George Washington. He was able to walk him through the whole process from finding an image to record over to posting the link at our class website. When I thanked him doing it and made him my official class tech, he simply said, "Well, you showed me how to do it." While that is true, I wouldn't have thought that the one time I showed him to do it would be enough, especially as it took me a couple of times to get it right. It was a great teaching moment.

The second one started during class and continued after school. One of my students has been hesitant to do much work during the process. Apparently, during lunch one of his classmates convinced him to do something with regard to the layered curriculum and that she would help him through it. As she told me this when she came after school to earn more points for herself, I was thrilled that she had so grabbed hold of the process that she was willing to work to convince others to do it. (Side note, she finished earning her "C Level" points Monday after school and has already handed in one of the "B Level" assignments, because she didn't want to wait until the last minute to hand things in.)

Some days it is great to be a teacher!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

One Step

As I read this post yesterday at the "What Ed Said" blog, and then thought about my own classes today, I realized that I was following in that same path. I do talk a great deal about allowing my students control of their own learning, but how often do I really do it? Yes, I use a layered curriculum format with some of my students, but the choices that they get to make as part of that layered curriculum are the choices that I have made for them. This certainly gives me something to think about as I plan my next unit for them.

The conversation that I had with one of my honors classes today about the projects that I assigned to them went in a somewhat different direction than I had expected. I understood when I assigned it to them that some of them might want to go in their own direction with the project (the assignment is to create a TV news report about one of the points of early westward expansion in the United States), but when they asked if they could create a video rather than a digital documentary, I was initially taken aback. I wasn't sure that I wanted them to do it this way. I am trying to build them up to creating their own digital documentaries, and I, initially, wondered if allowing them to go in their own direction would hurt that process. But, as they kept asking, I decided to relent and let them create their own documentaries, and the expressions on their faces was worth everything. They became genuinely excited about the prospect of creating their own documentaries. I am not sure what this is going to mean for the finished product, as some of them have already asked about "comedic" elements, but we'll see in a couple of weeks. They will still be creating an end-of-the-year documentary, but depending on how this goes, maybe they can have some more freedom in doing it.