I had a great experience this week and it is again one of those things that I can absolutely take no credit for.
I hope I am able to do justice to this experience. Last week as we were bringing first term to an end, I asked students to create a skit where they act out a conversation between members of an ancient hunter gatherer group. The conversation was about whether or not the group should stay hunter gatherers, or transition to a settled farming way of life. Students were to show their understanding of both ways of life by presenting the pros and cons of each lifestyle. They would wrap it up by recommending which lifestyle they thought would be best for them.
When I created this lesson, my intention was simple, to give students an alternative way to present their knowledge and understanding in a way that engaged more of their intelligences and was hopefully more fun for them. What I experienced was a truly touching example of inclusion, acceptance and compassion. I would love to share with you all of the various examples of the skits, but the one I have selected is a true example of what happens when you let students have choice in our classes.
I let students choose their groups. As you typically have it, many join into friend groups, and unfortunately you do have some groups that are less functional than others. As I watched students work together I saw students for the most part really jump into the task. They shared ideas and came up with some creative ways to represent their understanding. The biggest thing is they worked together and I heard and saw almost all students involved in the process. This alone made me very happy because I felt I found something to engage students and they were excited about doing the task. There was on group in particular that went out of their way to include two students who have some unique learning challenges. They not only decided to have these students be part of their group, they sought out to make sure they were given important roles in their skits. The students were encouraged throughout the planning stage, and it was phenomenal to see the group interact, all of them interact together throughout the process.
I cannot say enough how proud I am of my students who rise to the challenge daily with difficult course work focused on developing 21st century skills like problem solving, and critical thinking. I don't want to short change any student, but this group exceeded my expectations. Their actions touched me so much because I don't know if at their age I would have made the same decision. I am inspired by their compassion for their fellow students, and this is another example of how students have so much power in creating an engaging and accepting classroom. I hope the video below helps you understand how amazingly blessed I am to work with these young people on a daily basis.