The first semester has come to an end. While I observed my students working on their build your own civilization project, I was reminded of the multitude of projects and learning opportunities we have embarked on this semester. I am now reflecting on what the students accomplished, what they learned, and how to make it better next time. If you son and daughter has ever talked about what happens in my class, I am sure there has been some discussion about how they might have been frustrated with the work, or the fact that it was challenging or difficult at times. I would wholeheartedly agree. If I were a high school student in my class, I know there would be days that I might think, can't you just tell us the answer? And my current response is no! I am not the person with all of the answers, in fact I have more questions than answers. In my teaching career I have transitioned to the methods and practices I currently use. I have evolved in my thinking about what and how students should and do learn.
My aim or goal is to challenge students to think about the material we are studying in a manner that is more meaningful and will lead to deeper, longer lasting understanding of the concepts. I rarely use multiple choice questions in class because I reflect on my own experience and realize that when preparing for a bubble test, the knowledge only stayed with me momentarily. However when completing a project, the knowledge was build through experience, through my own work and discovery. I still remember projects I did when I was in middle school and high school. I do not however remember a single multiple choice test. That is not to say that multiple choice is bad. I am just making the point that I am pushing for deeper, lasting knowledge that builds on the factual information that is typically tested on a multiple choice test.
We take that knowledge and create something out of it. Our learning doesn't stop when we can identify the bill of rights, or which civilization was the first to use the wheel. It is about using prior knowledge in an application of some form to demonstrate a larger, more far reaching concept.
The courses are also about developing 21st century skills. There are many examples of these skills, but in general they are problem solving, deeper level thinking, collaborative, creative type skills. I am pushing my students to be thinkers. When they leave my classroom, they will forget much of the content that we have studied. Yes I have accepted that, think back to your high school career and how well would you be able to solve a quadratic equation, or remember the rules for a dangling participle, or how to convert jules into moles, or what was President Andrew Johnson's plan for Reconstruction after the Civil War? Students will not remember everything they are taught, but they are more likely to remember the skills and ideas that they are working to master.
I have created a short list of activities, lessons or projects that have been completed by my students in Sociology, World History, or US History during this first term. I hope to continue to add to these examples as time goes on.
What should be taught in schools -WH Students presented in front of members of the school board about what should be taught, the Big Bang Theory or Intelligent Design to explain how the world began.
911 blog post Student Examples - US and Sociology students interviewed an adult about their experiences about the 9/11 attacks and shared their results and ideas with students from across the country. I included the link above.
LCHS culture video - Sociology students participated in an activity with students from around the country creating a video about the culture of their school. Our students created videos about the culture of LCHS and shared those with the other schools.
Build Your Own Civilization - WH Students studied civilizations and used that background information to build their own civilization in a post nuclear apocalyptic world. They made laws, created a social structure and had to plan where in the world to create their civilization. There were many elements of social students present in this activity as well as critical thinking and reflection.
Audio posts for US - I have realized that I use a lot of writing in my class, partly because it is a better way to demonstrate depth of knowledge than other testing methods, and also because I find writing to be fairly easy. This year I tried to give students an alternative. They are able to complete their assessments using audio or visual posts. I posted previously about audioboo, but students have also used screencastomatic to complete tasks as well.
Genius Hour - This was student's opportunity to do something they were passionate about. They were given some class time to devote to the completion of this project. I wanted students to see that learning can be fun. They could choose just about anything to learn about, and there are some amazing results.
Civilization Storybook- WH students researched and created storybooks about their assigned civilization to teach the rest of the class about the early civilizations. Students not only had to learn about the civilization, they had to use their creativity to turn historical facts into an interesting story. The results are on the WH page.
Indian Removal Act- US students were asked to learn about and take on the role of one group who would be impacted by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that led to the Trail of Tears. Students had to represent the point of view of their group as we debated the merits of this historic decision.
Create Your Own Constitution- US students again role played members to the constitutional convention and were faced with significant issues and problems to be address by a fledgling nation. They role played the interests of their assigned delegate and state and worked to create decisions to govern this new nation and set the foundation for the country's future.
What do these projects have to do with diversity, different methods and mastery? I shared these with you because each has students demonstrate their understanding in a different methodology. They ask students to engage various forms of their learning intelligence from public speaking, to technology skills. Each one is based on a different content topic, but each asks students to think critically, analyze information, in most cases work collaboratively, or engage with others in some way to obtain information and understanding. Through these and many other examples, I have been able to see the strengths of my students. At times this strength has been perseverance . I say this because public speaking or technology are not the strengths of all students, but through their efforts to ask for assistance and determination they were able to accomplish some amazing things.