Saturday, October 15, 2016

Find the Force #3 (Genius Hour #3)

It's amazing what happens when you give students a stake in their own education.  That's what our Force Projects are all about (you can read more about our journey at Find the Force #1 & #2).

After lots of front-loading, brainstorming, and conversation about ideas, my students put together a proposal for what they wanted to learn about.  This included their topic, some resources they could use, how they could present their learning, and a basic outline of the steps they wanted to take from start to finish.  I reviewed these proposals and gave some constructive feedback, but for the most part, they were pretty solid!  Some of the projects include:
  • Learning to play a new instrument
  • Making an instrument out of various materials
  • Researching how music has influenced fashion over the years
  • Composing songs, or creating mash-ups of the students' favorite pop tunes
  • Teaching kindergartners about music and helping them create a piece

Finally, our first work day came.  I'll admit, I was a little nervous, especially because I had invited my assistant principal/evaluator to come in for an observation that day, and I had NO idea how it would go!  Before students began, I reviewed the guidelines and structures with them about how they should use their time...and then I set them free!

As I walked around the room, I was amazed.  Students were using Chromebooks, tablets, and phones to research their topics.  They were setting up Google Docs, sharing them with each other, and adding links so they could refer back to them later.  They were finding videos to teach them how to play new instruments and following along.  They were talking with each other - both within their groups and outside of their groups - about what they were learning, and asking for advice and feedback!  

Learning was happening.

Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I did expect to have to remind them, at some point, to stop texting friends or to get off that computer game or to refocus their conversations to what they were working on.  Out of the whole day, I only had to do this once.  Once.  With one student.  My assistant principal said that he walked around the entire period and did not see a single student who was not engaged in the work they were doing.  That's amazing!

You know something is working when students do not want to leave the classroom.  As the period was drawing to a close, I gave several reminders that they needed to get to a good stopping point and clean up.  They just wanted to keep going!  I had to (kindly) kick them out of my classroom so the next class could come in.

The following week, we all set up blogs to track our progress.  If you would like to follow our journey, check out a few of these blogs and please comment!  Password is "force".

And so the journey continues...

It's amazing how giving up control (as a teacher) resulted in more engagement and less management problems.  How do you give students a say in their learning?

1 comment:

  1. I like how you set up access to student blogs! I'll try and leave some comments and get my students to the lab to leave some as well. I'm so glad these projects are going well for you and your students!