We have all been to a conference or listened to a speaker that has inspired us to do things differently in our classroom, but when we get back to school the reality of curriculum, class sizes and marks get in our way…right? As well, there has been a ton of discussion about the fact that education needs to change, but when discussing this with teachers who are interested, often the question is how do I do that? In my next few posts I would like to share with those who are interested in what I am doing to change the way we do things. Maybe you are interested but just not quite sure where to start. To be honest, I have taken bits and pieces from all kinds of amazing educators to make my classroom more innovative and authentic, but still my own, and I would like to share that with anyone who is interested. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions along the way 🙂
Inquiry, Student Choice and Passion where it all came from….
I came across this video about 5 years ago and I knew I had to do something like this in my classroom. I started by teaching my students in a very traditional way about a particular unit. For example World War II in history or Anthropology or a certain age group in the Human Growth and Development and then I would let the students choose a topic that they were interested in. We would use the Social Scientific Research Method to learn about it and then at the end of the “Inquiry” they would be asked to showcase what they had learned in any way that they wanted. I created one rubric that would that would assess all projects. It was great, it allowed students to choose the topics that they really want to look into, but my students were still very much in school mode when they finished their inquiries and what I was hoping for was not really being achieved. Yes, they got to choose what they wanted to learn, but we just continued to complete projects like we would have before. So I continued to read about what others out there were doing and we added to the process. As of right now the steps that I have taken are below. It has evolved so much that I plan to describe each step below in its own blog post.
- Enlighten them!! I teach them about unlearning, about what is wrong with the current system and show them that we need to change in order to prepare them for the real world. This prepares them for their unlearning process.
- Social Media: Teach them about the power of Social Media – create twitter accounts for them to use throughout the semester.
- Curriculum: Expose students to course curriculum in the first two weeks of the course.
- Self Direction: Teach them how to complete the inquiry process (See steps below).
- Model: Practice one together.
- Gor For it!! For the semester: complete inquiries and action plans, genius hour, field trips, connect with real people, invite guests in, raise awareness, try and go viral, make a difference, learn with purpose.
- Assessment: Reflect on the process.
- Showcase it: At the end of the semester each student is asked to attend our Social Science Fair where they showcase what they have learned and connect their process to our OCDSB Exit Outcomes (Essential Life Skills). We invite people from the community such as the Mayor, Councillors, Parents, Grandparents – our goal is to get Justin Trudeau and the media to make it out to our next one!!
How my courses work
Below is the course layout that I have used over the last couple of years no matter what class I was teaching. Each time I come across something new I try to incorporate it into what I am doing, therefore the classes are always evolving.
Grade 10 & 11 syllabus for the semester:
- Inquiry # 1 – Goal Create awareness
- Inquiry # 2 – Goal same as above + create a Solution
- Action Plan – What do you want to learn, how would you like to learn it, what will you do with the information once you have learned it?
- Genius Hour
- Social Science Fair
- Choose a current issue – something that you are passionate about, could be passionate about, that you are already involved in, etc.
- Learn about the current issue and become and advocate for it.
- Create a media piece to gain attention, followers etc. post it – over and over and over to get tracktion
- Use the Social Scientific Method to research your issue in relation to your course material.
- Campaign: As you research tweet out, and at people who care about your issue – connect with organizations and classmates. Try to get on the twitter pyramid.
- Ultimate Goal – get noticed, get your message out there, create a solution – do something that matters.
- Assessment – students are assessed on a biweekly basis via twitter, each student reflects at the end of each inquiry and give themselves next steps for their next one.
- Action Plan – What do you want to learn, how do you want to learn it and what will you DO once you have learned it?
- Group Action Plan
- Weekly Discussions
- Social Media
- Barrhaven BIG
- Genius Hour
- Social Science Fair
In the grade 12 class the students get a lot more freedom and choice. Most students that I have in my classes have gone through at least one class in grade 10 or 11 with me and have started their unlearning process. I will go into more detail in a later post.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing and learning from all of you!!