Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ohhh Yah!

The Scene:  The 8th graders are working hard on their History of Slavery projects that I detailed here.  It is going much better than I ever predicted.  They are busy working, there are ALL KINDS of awesome ideas, they are talking about it outside of my class and on days they don't even come to me, and best of all...I get to walk around and enjoy. 

Proof that this is going the way I wanted...

8th grade boy (Let's call him Billy) walks in the door from recording something in the hall way:  "Hey!  Where is Mrs. Weber?"

The class laughs at him as I turn around sitting with another group of kids working RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.

Someone yells out:  "HA!  She's right in front of you!  Geeze!"

Billy says:  "Oh blend right in with the other students!"

And that, my friends, is what I was going for. 

Not to look as young as a teenager again (you couldn't pay me to relive my 8th grade style.)

But to be mixed in with the kids; watching, facilitating, and providing assistance when needed. 

Not up in front of the class instructing. 

I still can't wait for presentation day!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Letting Go...

I'm Back!

After 7 weeks (and 2 more bonus weeks of Christmas Break) off for maternity leave, I'm back in full force in the classroom.

Well...I might not be "full force" yet.  I kinda loved being at home with my cute little girls, and getting a 22 month old toddler and a newborn ready to go in the morning before school has taken some adjusting.  But we're making it work.

In my short return, I have picked up where I left off at the beginning of the year.  Trying to use the new technology placed in the hands of our kids, making small changes to each unit to incorporate said technology, and implementing new Social Studies state standards at the same time.

As I try creating new activities, converting old lessons, and figuring out apps, I had to remind myself of the purpose of the iPads, and technology in general. 


Having the kids create takes my teaching to some major uncharted waters.  Not to mention changing up the learning for the students.  This is new to them also. 

It requires me to let go of the control and put it in the hands of the students.

Can you say SCARY.

And completely different than any other world I have taught. 

I give instructions.  You follow.  I grade based on how well you followed those instructions.  If you don't like your grade I can point to the specific place on the detailed rubric where you didn't follow my instructions.

So here I go with my first scary attempt at giving up control.

I decided to do a little mini unit on slavery in the United States.  Definitely not spending as much time as I could on the topic, but enough to give the students a better understanding of slavery and how it affected the creation of America.  At the end of the unit, I didn't want to do a boring old test.  Instead, I gave the students a list of events that had something to do with slavery.  I took them to the library and they spent two days researching what those events had to do with slavery. 

Then I gave them their task.

With a partner, create a presentation of the history slavery through time.  Use technology available to you.  Present it to the class.  Be creative.  Think outside the box. 


That's it.  No other instructions, no specific directions on how to use certain apps.  I don't care.  You want to use it,  you figure it out.

They started off very slow, and VERY conditioned.  Immediately 90% of the groups went straight to Keynote or some other PowerPoint-type app to create a typical, very boring presentation.  It is almost as if we have conditioned the creativity right out of them.

I had to remind them.  They had NO SPECIFIC REQUIREMENTS on what to do with the information.

The next thing they did was go straight for the apps and try to figure out which one they wanted to do.  This also boxed them in because they went only to the apps they were familiar with.  I told them to try and reverse their thinking.  Come up with an idea that you want to try and then see if you have an app that can help you do that. 

Once they shed the restraints of past projects and years of following STEP.BY.STEP instructions the ideas started to flow. 

Here are just a few of the cool ideas so far...
  • A clay-mation video
  • A newscast
  • A QR code scavenger hunt! 
  • A song parody

And this is just day one.

Coming up with the idea was the easy part.  Now they have to DO THE WORK.  Each and every group has the potential to have an awesomely creative and different presentation, they just have to put in the effort to make it that way! 

I can honestly say I haven't been this excited about something in my classroom since, well, before maternity leave, maybe even all year.  It was a FUN day filled with brainstorming, learning, and noise...oh there was lots of noise.

I can't wait for presentation day!