The Bow Tie Boys

The Bow Tie Boys

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Becoming "One with the Students"

There are countless puns, jokes, and comments that state in order to be good at something, you have to become one with that something. Although many of these comments are intended to be funny, they have a deep meaning. If you want to do a job well, you have think about the purpose of your job and consider what it would be like to receive the product of your job. This thinking can propel the product and hence, the job itself. This idea is directly applicable to teaching, with teachers being felt connected to students and thinking about lesson plans from a students point of view.

I have two examples that stand out to me where mentors didn't become one with their students. One of them is from my perspective as a mentor, the other one as a mentee.

The first example involves Sunday School, which is Christian education that goes on at my church. I am a volunteer teacher for Sunday School, and I teach the kindergarten class. Sunday School is about an hour long and for the first 15 or so minutes, the kindergarten through 5th grade classes do an opening together. During this opening time, all the students will sit on the floor to receive some sort of quick lesson then do an activity regarding the lesson. However, I am the only teacher who will participate with the students and sit down with them. All the other teacher stand in a semi-circle around the sitting students, a few of them on their phones, oblivious to what is going on. I am being somewhat biased toward my class but my class is far more behaved than the others during this opening time. I speculate this is due to the fact that I am among my students, not outside of them. After the opening, the classes split up and do individual activities, so I don't know what goes on in the other classes during this time. But I do know that during opening, the teachers are almost completely disconnected from their students.

The other example I have is a general categorization of my past sports coaches. Now, I loved all of those coaches in the moment however, looking back, there was one thing that a few of them never did. Some of my coaches never participated with us in practice and just stood on the sidelines. Few of my coaches that stood on the sidelines were actually injured and couldn't participate to the greatest extent. Looking back now, I have slightly favored the coaches that were more than willing to jump in during a practice over those who weren't. While the coaches participated, I felt more motivated and supported, and felt they could understand what we had to do each day. While the coaches didn't participate, I felt that they were disconnected from us and couldn't understand what we went through, making their sometimes very supportive comments feel bland.

In school, some of my classes involve the teacher in non-meaningful ways. These usually consist of the teacher sitting in the front of the room, spectating students as they work. This type of participation creates a vibe that the teachers are significantly above the student, not equal with the student. On the other hand, if the teacher works with the students and is constantly moving around and participating in the activities, the students feel that the teacher is on their side. Teachers should do what they teach, meaning, if you teach science, participate in labs. In the words of Penny Kittle,
“I now believe you really can’t teach writing well unless you write yourself”(Write Beside Them, 2008). A teacher should do what they teach, not just teach it. When a teacher participates with their students, the students feel that the teacher actually has something to say and overall will provide more attentive  students. In many cases, "students don’t realize people often give them more information than do books or encyclopedias"(Seeking Diversity, 1992). Students will sometimes not realize how important and instrumental teachers are if the teacher doesn't make an effort to become one with the students.

The fix to this problem is simple, participate in as many activities in your class. If there is an activity that a teacher doesn't want to participate in, then the students will probably not want to participate either. When designing lessons plans, consider whether you as the teacher would enjoy the plan.  In addition, participate in as many activities as a student and judge whether or not you liked it and whether it is good enough to repeat. By participating as a student in lessons, the teacher can easily see what works and what doesn't, and the students will respect the teacher far more.

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Write beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.


 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Pi Day

Two days ago was pi day, arguably one of the nerdiest days of the year. In schools all across the country, kids bring in varying types of pizza and dessert pies, and memorize digits of pi, all in the name of one number, 3.14. Pi is one of the most recognizable constants in math, being the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. There is such enthusiasm on pi day that is unmatched throughout the rest of the school year. This number, which otherwise would be looked down upon as boring, is looked up to with energy.

I know personally from experience how hype pi day can get. Pi day brings excitement and energy to something that is honestly quite boring. Even though pi day this year was snowed out where I live, all of the festivities have been rescheduled. Pi day does something incredible. It makes something otherwise considered lame amazing.

The question that emerges from pi day to me has nothing to do with pi. It is why can't everything be like this at school. Not necessarily the parting aspect of it but the fact that pi is made fun and interesting on pi day. I think the first way to do this is for teachers to have this enthusiasm. If a teacher isn't excited about what they teach, then most kids will feel the same way. Many kids in many instances do not want to work and learn if they bored out of their mind, with no motive driving them. "All kids can learn, if they want to learn" (Seeking Diversity, 1992). Bringing enthusiasm to the class room, yet not so much that it is cliché, can make learning a better experience. But just that isn't enough to replicate the effects of pi day. Everything taught needs to feel special. New information can't feel like it is just mixed in with everything else, it needs to stand out, yet still connect with everything else. Pi for example, is unique as it is an exact value for the ratio for a circumference to diameter, yet, it connects with other geometric figures such as spheres, and pi is used in many formulas. If things taught are made so isolated from everything else, then the course doesn't seem connected and related. One way to make everything special is with a fun twist on the topic. Obviously, every single concept taught in school can't have its own day with parties like pi day, but everything can have their own wow factor. Pictures, jokes, mini field trips, and other fun activities can ascend a lesson from normal, to unique and engaging. One activity is from the movie Dead Poets Society. The teacher, Mr. Keating, tells the boys to step on to his teachers desk to view the room from a different point of view, illustrating the use of lenses and lens theory, in a unorthodox manner. Lessons like those that differ from one another makes each lesson, as well as the content new and exciting. It also give something to relate the material to. Students could say things like ,"oh yeah, we learned that when we did the field trip." By having something to link material to, like a symbol or activity, will further increase the endurance of that knowledge.

An example of one of those activities that I have done this year was for science. The activity was a mini field trip to a creek in walking distance to the school. Once at the creek, we had to calculate discharge of the creek, or how much water flows through it at a certain time. By doing this lab, and a unique activity in order to complete it, I guarantee I could ask any of my classmates how to calculate discharge and all of them would not only know how, but also talk about the lab we did calculating discharge. There are so many different activities that can make things unique and memorable, it is really up to the teacher which one they want to employ.

I hope everyone can take something from this blog and implement it into their own classroom. And to all, happy belated pi day!

Dead Poets Society. Dir. Peter Weir. Perf. Robin Williams. 1989. DVD.                         

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.

                       

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Experience With Stress

Stress is one of the things that almost everyone experiences, myself included. Although stress can have some damaging health benefits, I have seen that there is such a thing as "healthy" stress, one that can help a person, not damage them.

I know that I work so much better when I have stuff to do. I know many of my peers feel similarly. When I am busy, I know that I have stuff to do, with little time to do it. For example, at the beginning of this year of high school, I was so not used to the massive workload. In addition to the dramatically increased workload, I had cross country six days a week. As a result, when I came home at almost 6:30 each school night, I would go immediately to homework, and except for breaks for showering and eating, I did straight homework for up to four hours. On nights I didn't have as much homework, I still would come home and start immediately on work. On the other hand, when I am not busy, I will not be as focused and will often waste time and do the work with lower quality. Almost every year, toward the end of school, I have significantly less work, and almost every year, I nearly stumble, but then realize that the work must done, so I feel busy again. When I am busy, I am stressed. However, I have not been stressed to the point that it became a health issue. I was stressed enough to keep me on point, and to not slack off.

I personally work better when I have x amount to do in y amount of time, compared to when I simply have a lot to do. Many of my peers would agree with me. To create this atmosphere of busyness, more homework isn't necessary. If class time is made so that there is a large workload, and any spill over goes to homework, students will take empowerment to work hard during class and to pay great attention. Trusting students to rise to the occasion will succeed. In the words of Linda Rief, "Trusting and respecting our students may be the best models we provide for them in creating culturally healthy environments in our schools." (Seeking Diversity, 1992). Trusting students can result in more dedication to the learning, not to the thought of getting out of it. Creating this busy vibe in the classroom can create a "work time" atmosphere, that prompts students to work hard knowing that it has rewards. This "work time" is needed by writers. Penny Kittle described this as, "We (writers) need to understand what work time looks like" (Write Beside Them, 2008). Exposing students to this work time can help mimic an environment found in the work place.

The solution to creating this busy environment is not to give out significantly more homework. More work isn't always the solution. This increased homework load can also cause the unhealthy stress that I talked about above, not the healthy stress that drives a students. One option that could work would be having the classroom be set up in a manner that there is a lot of rapid fire work with anything that spills over ends up being homework. This would set up the environment with the idea of x amount of work to do in y amount of time. Also the idea of reduced homework in the eyes of many students, myself included, is huge motivation. This framework has similarities to my seventh grade English class. Everyday, we would come in, and for the first half of class we would analyze a poem or a song, or do a quick write. The second half we would do our grammar, reading, writing, etc. The work done during the second half of class would be laid out at the beginning of the interim (one half of a quarter or one eighth of the school year). We would have the interim to do the work but half of each class would be dedicated to doing the work. This new set up I am describing would essentially be my seventh grade class, but instead of the time frame being one interim, the time is one day. This would hopefully reduce the effects of procrastination. One final thing is that with more work being done during class time, there would be less of a need for homework, which I know as a student, is definitely something I look forward to. Creating an environment with a healthy stress can push a student to perform at a high ability with in the classroom and produce high quality work.

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Write beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Impact of Isolated Units

Many of my current classes are based upon units. Although these units are a nice organizational pattern, they often feel severely disconnected from one another. In previous classes, I didn't understand the relationships between the different units until the end of the year. This set-up in my mind, ruined the synergy between the unit and didn't make the class feel like one class, but more like a dozen separated ones.

One specific example that sticks out to me was my sixth grade English class. This class had several units, some based on books, one focused on grammar, and another based on writing. The units felt extremely disconnected from each other and it was at the end of the year that I final connected the dots. Especially in English, all the aspects of learning (grammar, reading, essays, etc.) are intertwined into one subject, English. In the words of Linda Rief, "Neither can I separate reading writing, speaking, and listening. They are integrated processes finely woven into a tapestry of literacy." (Seeking Diversity, 1992). This isn't just the case in English, but in all subjects. Everything is connected, yet it is rarely taught as so. My current math class, (which I talked about in my blog two weeks ago) doesn't have units. Everything is built off the previous learning, and everything clearly relates to one another. This was obvious after only a week of taking the course. Before the weekly small quizzes, I find that the best way to study is review old concepts and to redo some of the homework problems, and after the quiz I still retain the knowledge.

On the contrary, many of my classes don't build off previous learning each unit. As a result, the night before the big unit test my fellow classmates and I cram in knowledge to study. Immediately after taking the test, all that knowledge went straight out of my head. The unit tests are just an assignment that are used for a regurgitation of memorized facts. A fellow bowtie boy, Sean Pettit, is well known for saying, "units encourage forgetting". Units break up learning into a choppy experience, not a fluid one.

Another one of my current classes that doesn't have individual units is my science class. The class is very unique in that over the course of this year and next, we are taught aspects of Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics, all in one year. These individual aspects of science are normally taught in individual courses. In my science class however, the next two years of science will teach me all three of those science subjects. The cool thing about my science class isn't just the fact that in two years we are taught three years of science, but also that the Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics are weaved together to form one class. One week, we learned about orbital dynamics and circular motion but then the next week we learned about the result of those forces which are stars, planets and galaxies. This pedagogy is a very interesting one to me but I really like it. Before I can even start to get bored of one individual area, such as physics, we have moved on to a different aspect. I also like the fact that, due to the switching of sciences, I can give more varied input. I can think about Earth Science, Chemistry, and Physics, all at the same time and also express that thought in this class and what I say will have relevance. Penny Kittle said, “You have this thinking building up inside you all the time and you just need to get it out”(Write Beside Them, 2008). Having multiple things going on at once means I don't have to hide away my thought because they aren't relevant. Finally, I like the flow and transition to and from the different sciences. They aren't forced and don't seem like a major shift, more like a continuation from the previous science aspect.

Obviously, this idea of teaching three sciences as one would be difficult to implement in many schools. However, the weaving together of different aspects of an individual subject, would be much more manageable. In history, linking civilizations to one another and teaching how they connect and relate can make history feel like it is all connected, which it is.  History shouldn't have units, but more of a focus each day that still ties everything together. In math, building everything off each other tears down unit walls and connects seemingly unrelated concepts. In science, although it would be near impossible to implement a system like my current one, science is all connected. Many of my friends who take just Earth Science this year make a giant leap from geology to astronomy. There shouldn't be giant leaps. Units create these leaps. A slow yet concise transition is what is needed to connect things that would have otherwise been completely separate units.  Finally in English, weaving together grammar, reading, writing, and the others aspects of English together into one would create a more authentic learning experience.

Works Cited:

Kittle, Penny. Write beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2008. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.                                                


Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Notes Based Classroom

Last week I described a current, inquiry based math classroom that puts emphasis on student involvement and discussion. Today I am going to talk about a class that isn't quite on that level, one that has little student involvement and mainly consists of taking bland notes.

This class is built upon notes, which take up at least half the class. The notes are based directly off the SOLs (Virginia's version of The Common Core). Before notes, there is either a discussion of homework from the night before or a quiz using an outline of sorts. The homework discussions are very thought provoking, usually occurring in our small groups before being opened up to the whole class. The discussions can clear up confusion and can involve the whole class into a debate. The quizzes on the other hand, are simply a preview of the material for that day and to me, doesn't serve much value. The quizzes being graded also forces students to often spend way more time than necessary on outlining and making it far too long, thus preventing the skill of outlining from being effectively conveyed. Simply having the outline as homework and checking the outline without the quiz allows the teacher to give constructive feedback and the students can stress less about the quiz and focus more on a short yet detailed outline.

This class has the same everyday structure, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Organization is critical to any human endeavor, but there should be some variation each day to make each day feel new and exciting, not the exact same. The class has this everyday structure, yet never strays far away from it, making each class feel like a repeat of last. This organizational pattern is written on the board each day, therefore accomplishing the "Frame the Lesson" aspect from fundamental five.

On most days, only three of the fundamental five are used in this class. Those three are frame the lesson, recognize and reinforce, and write critically. The two fundamentals missing are working in the power zone and frequent, purposeful, small group discussion.

Small Group Discussion:
This critical fundamental can help break up the class and refresh student attention. Trying to concentrate to lecture/notes for 60+ minutes in a row is near impossible. These small group discussions not only can refresh students but also provide a quick period where students can reinforce what they just learned by discussing it and thus, building a in depth understanding. The lack of these discussions have resulted in more memorization in the class that is immediately lost after the test. In this class, simply discussing what we just learned in the notes for 1-2 minutes can not only help students retain attention, but also retain information and provide understanding, not just memorization.

Power Zone:
The power zone refers to the area immediately surrounding the teacher. Working the power zone refers to the movement of the teacher across the room to impact and include all the students in the power zone. Moving around like this has several advantages over teaching from a stationary position. The constant movement makes students feel a true constant presence of a teacher and will pay attention knowing that they aren't "safe" in the back of the class. The constant walking also makes the class room higher energy. This, coupled with frequent, small group discussion, leads to a class with high energy and one where attention span isn't a problem. In this classroom, where the teacher doesn't work the power zone, the students don't feel the presence of the teacher. This results in both lack of attention and the feeling that the teacher isn't there to help. It seems like a silly thing, but just moving around the class can bring a sense of energy and enthusiasm to the class.

On a final note, this class to me, is directed toward the average student. The class doesn't do well accounting for the students who are not average.  In the words of Linda Rief, "Workbooks don’t address the unique learning styles, the extraordinary ideas, the honest thinking or the prior knowledge each child brings to the classroom"(Seeking Diversity, 1992). There is nothing in the class that allows students to chart they own path (under teacher guidance). We haven't had one project or anything that lets us chart our own course. Just having some choice is far better than having no choice.

Nothing in human existence is perfect, and can never be. Yet, all of us should work to make our lives and the lives of people around us better regardless of who we are. As a student, I work and push myself not only to do well in school, but also in running and to be a hardworking member of the Bowtie Boys. No classroom will ever be perfect, but it should be the job of teachers to make a classroom as great as possible.


Cain, Sean, and Mike Laird. The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction. Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 2011. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Inquiry Based Classroom

My math classroom is unique to say the least. While most math classrooms are dominated by repetitive problems on worksheets and guided notes, my current math classroom is run by student based inquiry with the teacher intervening at critical points in order to either clarify a problem or to ask a critical question that can hint to a future development. We as students are always linking current learning to past learning and are taught to “act like predators, not prey” and to anticipate future learning. There are several things that go into making this classroom successful. These are some of the several key aspects/qualities and the roles they play in this classroom.

The Teacher:

Facilitator is the better word in this classroom. The teacher is simply a bystander who carefully guides the students down a path that such they continually recognize relationships with past knowledge. The teacher will strategically intervene at certain points to make something clear or to try and spark the idea for a relationship. The teacher though is still extremely knowledgeable at math so that he/she has the knowledge and understanding to answer any and all questions thrown their way.

The Homework:

The homework for this math class is for the most part done out of a set of three workbooks. Usually two assignments from this workbook are assigned each night for homework. Each assignment consists of 8-12 multistep questions that rarely repeat format more than 3 questions in a row, reducing repetition. The questions in the homework aren’t typical math questions and the work book as a whole teaches wholesome understanding not how to plug numbers into a formula. The questions also will require using knowledge learned earlier in the year to keep the old concepts fresh. Almost all new learning is linked to and built upon previous understanding so that in order to learn the new concepts, the students have to remember the old ones. This ensures that students don’t forget old concepts and constantly build upon what they have learned. However, due to the unique nature of the learning style, some state mandated standards aren’t taught directly through the workbook. They are taught in two ways. One is teaching skills and knowledge that can be directly translated to the standard or brief standards review worksheets, consisting of 6 questions that cover standards not talked about in class. Although many standards aren’t directly addressed, the skills conveyed address a multitude of standards.

The grading for homework is also different from standard homework grading. In my class, homework and other formative assignments account for 10% of the grade. Each homework assignment is worth 10 points, 2 points for participation in the classroom discussions and 8 points for completing the homework. This means that one has to participate in the class discussions and presentation of answers in order to get full credit on homework. The first week my teacher was lenient of the participation part as all of the students haven’t been in that sort of environment. By the end of the first week though, all of us had grasped the concept and since participation in the class hasn’t felt like a bullet point to cross off but something that furthers our learning.

The Learning Format:

Almost the entirety of class is spent on going over homework in depth. The homework usually consists of two assignments out of a workbook. The following class, each 2 person pair in the class becomes an expert on 2-4 problems and presents their problems, the solution, and how that solution was achieved. The pair then opens up questions to the class and after clearing up any confusion and discussing the answers and process thoroughly, the teacher will then sometimes ask a question. This question will usually question the authenticity of the answer and the student(s) will have to defend their answer and thoroughly explain. The other common question usually asks the students to link what they are learning now and either how it will develop future learning or how the current learning was developed from past learning. Often as a result of these questions, an open class discussion can occur which can result in the class working cooperatively to figure out why something works or can result in a debate on a problem, theory, etc. These discussions will be cut out by the teacher if time is of a concern.

Tests:

In my math class there are neither units nor big unit tests. There are simply weekly quizzes that cover around 6 homework assignments. The way the tests are scheduled however, the class is usually two assignments ahead of what is covered on the quiz. This means that the material on the quiz has already been understood in order to act like a foundation for the next assignments/topics. These quizzes also consist mainly of 3-5 multistep questions.


This pedagogy is relatable to Solomon Khan’s concept of a flipped classroom. The material is made for the students to learn at home and in class, the teacher ensures the students understand the material and clarifies any questions and misconceptions. The set up also tries to teach understanding of skills and concepts, not memorization of formulas. In the rare case we use a formula, we undergo extensive learning in order to prove that formula and show that it works. As a result of proving everything we use, it gives us as the students a better understanding of the topic and facilitates the learning of related topics.

The constant need for participation within the classroom also drives all of the students to think outside the box and to never take anything for granted. During discussions, students have to use their knowledge and combine it with their creative thinking in order to provide a valid solution or case. This constant creative thinking encourages the students to create a more whole understanding of the topic as they are explaining the “how” behind everything they say. While presenting on their assigned homework problems, the students have to explain not only the answer, but also how they got the answer. This vocal repetition will help not only the presenters but also the audience understand and remember how to do something. Also having to explain the process helps the students know how to do the process better and understand it more.

The format of my math classroom almost creates a completely student run operation. This is so apparent that when my teacher is absent, the kids will teach and facilitate the class. My teacher will just pick two kids to lead the class that day and the sub will be the bystander that makes sure the students are on task and if carrying background knowledge on the subject, can contribute to the many discussions that occur. The two kids leading the class will assign problems to present on and ask thought provoking questions. This give the students an opportunity to be empowered and take on a leadership position. The combined effects of this student leadership, creativity provoking discussions, and teaching of skills not standards contribute to an all-around nurturing learning environment.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

World Relating Projects

In recent years, there has been a push for students to incorporate learning into the outside world and administrators have pushed teachers to use these projects in the classroom. But in many situations, these projects have become another hurdle to jump through, another bullet on the list of things to do. These projects are usually intended to engage and interest students to the outside world, but end up being used as simply another project that actually has little to do with the outside world, compared with a major connection.

Many of these projects from my experience have simply related to the outside world, not developed a thorough, in depth connection. For example, in eighth grade science, which covered physics and chemistry, the world regarding project for that class was to brainstorm and research three ideas to improve the fuel efficiency of cars in the future and create a brochure on the three ideas. The class split into 4-5 groups and started brainstorming about their ideas. Many rather conventional methods were put forth as well as more extreme and futuristic ideas on how to improve fuel efficiency in cars. Although this project related directly to a real world problem or crisis, the project didn’t take the extra step to actually doing something about the problem, instead, merely mentioning it. The project was also graded on a rubric, which is rarely used in the workplace. The project could have taken a simple extra step to send out a newsletter on how to conserve fuel for the future, as a low level extra step. Yes, a problem of actual significance and relevance was addressed in this project but what was done about it? Nothing. The unique factor of this project was essentially non-existent. The idea was there, the execution wasn’t.

These projects are sometimes overlooked because of incidences such as these, yet, they still break up the standard curriculum which is Susan Ohanian described by saying, “I don’t know many adults who could sit quietly through even one day of the dusty confines of a typical school curriculum”. (Caught in the Middle, 2001)

However, these projects have great potential because they can teach real world skills and can directly connect students to the world. School is the predecessor to a job, and certain jobs can require some specific skills in order to carry out. Some jobs in the future might not exist today, creating the need for adaptability and the readiness for the unknown. These projects that connect students to the world are vital to the development of the future of unpredictability and the need for resilience.

There are limitless very cool examples of these projects but here are some examples that I really like:

1.      Have students create a mock website of their dream future job/company with valid research and descriptions that paint a picture of that dream using free website creators such as Weebly that can be used in future interviews as a piece of authentic writing regarding why they want that job/company (credit Ryan Beaver)

2.      Have students work together in groups or alone to produce a short film about a topic/controversy they feel passionate about to share with the community to advocate for that topic

3.      Work collaboratively in small groups to design a cheap system that can benefit those who are less fortunate i.e. designing a water filter straw that can be given to those in areas with low quality water

4.      Students work to create a poster or computer graphic that shows their lives all in one place including their accomplishments to show colleges and potential companies that the students plan to work for

One problem with carrying out these projects is the aspect of student choice. Some students want free reign on how they deliver the final product, while some students want a clear cut choice of what to do. Some ways the balance of both sides have been done is with three options, one of which is a student chosen, teacher approved product. Students also have varying degrees of abilities and responsibilities, which makes this option fit students in that regard. Letting students create allows them to think outside the box and in the words of Linda Rief “Creating is the highest form of intellectual development.” (Seeking Diversity, 1992) Letting students show true creativity is letting them develop themselves intellectually.

The other problem regarding these projects is finding relative topics to use. Look no further than current issues for those topics. There are so many controversies that almost everyone can choose a side on and that everyone has a voice for. Writing a thorough letter to senators, publishing a blog, website, or even newsletters are ways to connect to a real world issue, and actually advocating for that issue directly, bridging the gap between students and the world around them.

A student enters a classroom, three minutes to the bell. They immediately go and retrieve a laptop to start working. As other members of their group come in, they gather around the computer and they start working together. The group talks and types all class, intrigued in their work. Some of the students aren’t directly interacting with their computer, but instead are doing research on their own devices. The other small groups in the class are following this example, continuously collaborating and discussing their work. The last 15 minutes of class, all students huddle up in their small groups and combine what they did that class onto the main computer as a group. As the dismissal bell rings, the groups pack with haste, and are anxious to return to work next class. This may seem like an unheard of occurrence in schools but this can definitely be achieved with a well thought out project that connects students to the world in a meaningful way.

 

Works Cited:

Ohanian, Susan. Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.

Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity: Language Arts with Adolescents. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Educational, 1992. Print.