Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How Something Simple Became So Powerful...

In terms of teaching, this can be the hardest time of year. Yeah, the beginning of the year can be tough. Even that middle between late January to March can be tougher. But if you ask the teachers in my building this time of year is brutal. Our state testing is over. We are in the midsts of re-testing students who didn't get it the first time. (And that is a whole other issue for another day.) Teachers regularly have to keep 1 or 2 groups of kids for 3-4 hours so there is absolute quiet in the building. Many teachers are asking each other what to do for that long.

But for me, this was the best time of year. I could do whatever I wanted in my classroom. No curriculum. No requirements. No stress. All fun. This was the time of year I could really let loose and let kids explore whatever they wanted and learn whatever they wanted in my class.

Of course, we had been doing this all year long but there were always the requirements of administrator walk-throughs, district testing, etc. But this time of year was different. It was like learning without consequences.

A math teacher in my building came to me yesterday and was asking for ideas for her group of kids she would have for about 2 hours. She had an idea but wondered if there was a "tech" extension. She teaches 6th grade and likes having the kids reflect on their year. (She has each of her groups every year do some thing different.) She then takes the reflections from the previous year and gives them to the rising 6th graders on their first day of Middle School. The kids hear from other kids what being in middle school is really about.

This year was no different. But she was stuck. She wanted the project to be fun and engaging but needed a hook for the students. Earlier that day I had come across this great blog post from Suzanne Whitlow on a Facebook Profile page. I had seen similar projects where students create pages for famous people, places, events, etc instead of doing boring reports.

My teacher instantly jumped at the idea. She could take the template and have the kids make Fan pages for their favorite parts of 6th grade. The kids could do their reflections but present them in a way most kids understand.

I peaked in while the kids were working. I nearly came unglued. What I was seeing was amazing! The kids were so excited. They were rapidly making color changes, adding text, and inserting pictures. They were talking to each other about the best and worst parts of the year, debating the best teacher in the school and warning the newcomers about teachers to avoid.

I was running around the building finding people to show this off to. I take no credit for it. All I did was find the template. What I wanted to show off was the fact kids were doing some great reflecting and presenting it in a different way. My administrator was hooked. She wants other teachers to use the idea for all sorts of content areas. There was even talk of an actual school Facebook page (but again, that is another story for another day.)

The teacher gave me all the files that the students did so I can put them on our website. But I wanted to show a few here as an example of how something so simple can be so powerful.

Very cool stuff. I can't wait to share all of these with our rising 6th graders in August.

Kids are so cool...

What kinds of cool projects have you done at the end of the school? Or how have kids amazed you recently? Leave some comments below.
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