Posts filed under ‘Class Management’

The Freedom to Fail…

is central to success. ?!

Leading the lesson with that caused looks of confusion in my somewhat stressed students as we near the end of a major project. It’s important for me to realized too. I have to allow students to choose to fail. If there is no possibility that anyone will fail, success has no real meaning. And I am making myself responsible for all student work and taking on the onus. Plus it would make me super-stressed and really (even more) annoying, nagging them to death and um, treating them like I didn’t trust them.

Of course I’m going to support students, check in with them, break down tasks and deadlines and most importantly, talk to each individual group in this last project-work lesson. “How are you?” “What’s your panic level?” “What is next on your check list?” “Want me to look over your written section for suggestions?” (note NOT to re-grade stuff, that entirely changes the vibe.) “What are your plans to get this done with each other at home?” I also go round and distribute the rubric for the finished project to keep them focussed on what is required. Having kids share documents for color printing is a good way for me to give a last look at their work too.

We had a bit of a laugh looking at Tim Urban’s TED talk “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator” too.

I thought they would be tempted to spend way too much time decorating their poster board or to stick on random pictures just to make it look pretty. But in fact it was more like they didn’t want me to bug them – too busy getting it done.

It is SO hard to resist the urge to nag, require, boss and take over their decisions. I feel like a bad teacher if they are just standing about chatting when they could be working. Especially students who have been struggling. But when I think of how I learned not to procrastinate, I had to really feel the pain to make a change worthwhile.

I used to let grading pile up by the end of each quarter and then have a last-minute, late night frenzy, giving kids grades based on what was bad because I was too tired to notice what was good and give encouragement. Then they’d get their work back weeks after they did it, and would only look at the grade and not pay any attention to the other feedback. It was all long past. So it damaged relationships with my students which then resulted in tense parent exchanges too. It was ultimately enough pain to start to challenge the urge to procrastinate.

But the other piece was more positive: Barbara Nagle, a former chemistry teacher and mentor said that she was really curious to know how her students had done on an assignment right after they handed it in, and I noticed that’s when I was most motivated too. So I tried it after a particularly brutal end-of-term grading thrash. There’s also when I started to made more careful decisions for what to grade and not to grade. I write rubrics and/or a model answer for most pieces of work now. But I also just get on with it, (the mantra of – British psychotherapists 🙂 grading work often during seat work time in class, which allows me to give students one-on-one verbal feedback to save me the time of writing it down. Plus tone of voice can soften criticism to become coaching, and if I lead with curious questions, I often uncover what was going on with a child who’s done a horrible piece of work. Saves accidentally smacking a kid down when their dog has just died etc.  I know. It was sometimes horrifying how close I’d come to doing that in the press of work and hurry and stress.

I do have one student who is driving me crazy right now – bright, friendly guy but does nothing. Nothing. Just hangs out and shoots the breeze with anyone who will listen. I keep talking to him – checking he gets the big picture and try to help him feel how great it would be to have a project to show his parents etc. Come to think of it, I have two more who will probably end up with nothing much. Worked with them all today trying to structure tasks with them, one piece at a time. One did quite a bit and gave me a hug at the end. The other drew a picture of an eagle instead… But would nagging them make any real difference other than window-dressing with a ‘project’ that was basically done by me/parents/special ed colleagues? And would it do actual harm – helping to form entitled, lazy and ultimately unhappy young adults?

I do feel that it’s a genuine gift – the freedom for my students to feel the pain, visualize and to choose to avoid it, or learn from it. It’s good for me to remind myself that I’m in it for the bigger goal of preparing them for their adult lives, and it’s good for me to grip the controls a little more lightly – like riding a mountain bike over rough ground.  It’s not a free-for-all, it’s not chaos. My feet are definitely not up on the desk. And there are boundaries – no distracting other groups for example. And no chopping worms in half. But that’s another story.

 

 

March 21, 2019 at 3:25 PM Leave a comment

Welcome to the Earth Exhibition!

We’ve been trying to make the timeline of the Earth riveting for ages for our 7th grade scientists. Geologic ages. Finally, we called on our local 4th and 5th graders to the rescue.  Here’s what we did, ‘learning opportunities’ and all, so you could try something similar to get an authentic audience for your next PBL project.

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Developing teaching materials to engage younger students is very motivating for our students and at 7th grade, it’s wonderful to get them outside of their heads and their dramatic social lives. They were so excited to be doing something real, for real kids and also to see their beloved elementary teachers again.

We probably should have checked with the principal of the elementary school BEFORE launching the project challenge with students – “Write a story in a geological setting to be read out loud to elementary students. Then make a slide show to show the science behind it.” Here’s the overview of Rock a Story Set in Stone including links to examples, templates and rubrics.

We had a second project we wanted to share at the same time “Teach the timeline of the Earth using an interactive model or game that will engage elementary students.” Here’s an overview of the Timeline of Earth Project.

We were lucky that both the principal of our school, and of the local elementary school agreed um, in principle. With the proviso that the experience be interactive and not just a show-and-tell.

We made a little slide show of kids making the exhibits (open with QuickTime), plus links to a couple of the best projects to send out as an invitation to our elementary colleagues teaching 4th and 5th grade classes. We were also lucky to have a 6th grade colleague who agreed to bring her students in to fill in the gaps when we couldn’t find enough elementary classes to come in. Ideally, you need one class of ‘audience’ to one class of ‘teachers’ to have the classroom feel vibrant and to minimize the number of students standing around without an audience.

We set up a Doodle for teachers to sign up and amazingly, some did, walking their classes over the mile or so in the threatening rain, taking a valuable hour and a half from their busy curriculum. We invited admin and counselors too.

Here’s the lesson plan we used. fullsizeoutput_44d4A 45 minute class was a perfect amount of time. 5 minutes intro, 30 minutes for kids to share stories (in 3 little ‘pods’ around the edge of the room), share their exhibit or play their timeline board game. The board games were the big hit by the way. I was not expecting that. Then at the end, we ran a Kahoot where 7th graders each found a younger student or two to pair with. That was super fun and a great way to end the class – the last question asked what they’d liked best about the day and all the alternatives were right. Here’s a link to the Kahoot we used.

Next year, we will re-do the schedule so that elementary classes can visit all our classes – 7th graders felt much more comfortable reading to children a couple of years younger rather than 6th graders. Younger students asked more questions and were more visibly thrilled to be there too. Also great to connect with our elementary colleagues who seemed to think it was so wonderful that they will tell their colleagues at our other elementary schools to build momentum for next year when we’ll invite all elementary schools (this was a trial with our nearest elementary school). We might also move the story telling circles to one classroom so it’s easier to hear. But otherwise, we are tired but pretty happy at the end of this slightly crazy day.

 

 

 

January 11, 2019 at 4:51 PM Leave a comment

Proposals – The Real World Bites

Preparing kids for the dog-eats-dog real world of work…

Continue Reading October 10, 2016 at 11:55 AM Leave a comment

Cool School Survey

Noticing patterns in data is a story – the initial ‘set’ is the experimental question. The data has hidden in it the resolution, at least partially. Like a joke with a set, an expected outcome and the sudden switch to something that is incongruous and yet makes sense. Unexpected truth looked at in a different way: why scientists are so fascinated is at least in a way, similar to reading a compelling and complex story that in science, never really ends.

Continue Reading September 30, 2016 at 9:18 AM Leave a comment

The Cool Box Comp.

How wrap up the cool shoe box competition: data collection and analysis with a minimum of time wasting frustration…

Continue Reading September 26, 2016 at 12:46 PM Leave a comment

Build Day!

How to love project build days with 156 twelve year olds…

Continue Reading September 22, 2016 at 11:44 AM Leave a comment

Working Less, Kids Learning More with PBL

Working less for more engagement and more science content covered even with PBL.

Continue Reading September 19, 2016 at 1:46 PM Leave a comment

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