Changes are coming. My notebook is riddled with sticky notes of changes to make next time.
I thought I would write a blog, giving you an idea of what that looks like. I share the stuff I use in the classroom, but I don't always share my thought process at the end. So, here it is.
Project Title: Game Changers of the United States
Descriptions: Working in teams, students will identify a person, document, or moment in history that caused our country to shift directions. They will decorate a ceiling tile to dedicate in that Game Changer's honor. A speech will be written and delivered during the "Dedication Ceremony" in class.
Project Instruction Sheet and Rubric >>> CLICK HERE
This project is something I have done on a smaller scale with my middle school students in the past. If you want to read the blog post detailing that project >>> CLICK HERE
Aren't those cool?? I just love how they turned out. But that doesn't mean it was perfect. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. When I reflect on what I look at both what went well and what changes need to be made in order to make it better.
What went well?
- The end result was awesome. The tiles look great in the ceiling and my super artistic students had an opportunity to shine.
- On the first day, I had the students make a list of their academic strengths and weaknesses, things they add to a team when tasked with an assignment or project. I had them share the lists with their groups. This helped the groups delegate tasks based on the strengths and weaknesses of their members.
- For the most part students used their time wisely. There wasn't a bunch of wasted time, but there was time that could have been better organized...for example all 3 group members spend a day and a half researching and writing their speech, then were stressed to finish their tile on time. They could have "divided and conquered" the work so they weren't stressed with finishing the tile at the end.
- I was worried initially about "content" and what might be covered, but I was insistent that students have choice in their "Game Changers." The great thing was that all groups except for two chose a topic that falls within my scope and sequence. Many choosing something from what we could consider modern history.
- I took a risk and put together a group that was made entirely of the kids who struggle to participate. They ABSOLUTELY ROCKED IT. I saw leadership, delegation, engagement and I didn't ONCE have to tell them to get to work. They picked a topic they were interested in and have one of the coolest tile designs! I am so proud of them!
- In general students love working on projects, but to just move from one project to another can be taxing. We are moving into more "traditional" learning methods for the next couple weeks. The students are excited for those and seem to approach class with more confidence and energy. It's almost as if they recognize they got to do something cool and fun and want to do well on even the "regular" assignments so they can keep doing things that are different.
- The cool thing about this project (one of the many) is that it automatically provides advertisement for the things we will do in class. My Sophomores were asking if they get to do this. Its one of the first things kids see when they enter the classroom and one of the first things they ask about. The tiles create a buzz of excitement.
- Grouping worked decent. I used a strategy that I detail HERE in this post about differentiating the students who are artistically talented. This made sure that every team had someone who could hold a pencil. For the most part my groups were good. Maybe a couple changes here and there...but grouping kids is the HARDEST part of any project or assignment for me.
- The kids are PROUD of their work. They bring in friends from other classes to show off their hard work. :)
What is needed next time?
- Each team member will complete the research and write their own speech before we begin working on the tiles. Then they can compare speeches and create one "MEGA-Speech" out of the best of each. This way I am ensuring that each student does the research and content portion of the project. This can also be a part of their assessment.
- I will be more specific on what elements I want on the tile. I was pretty general with my tile requirements in order to allow for creativity. And while I got that with some, other's needed more guidance. I think I can find a happy medium.
- Timing...The original idea had this be the final project of the year. I was worried though, that I may run out of time and end up cutting it. I still like the idea of the end of the year, BUT it worked well as a mid-term type project. Knowing that this project will be a priority may keep the project in the middle of the semester, but I have flexibility depending on when I want to use it.
- I try to have a good balance of checking in with the groups and allowing them time to work on self-regulation and time management. They cannot learn how to manage time without me giving them time to have to manage. I always feel like I can do better and helping them with those skills.
- Looking at how I can increase our audience base. Do I have some sort of online presentation and voting to share out? Do I invite guests? How can I increase the stakes of the presentation pieces.
- I would love to make over my classroom so it looks like an actual ceremony. Black table cloths, fake candles, snacks and have the kids dress up for their presentation OR dress in character. That would be a cool way to wrap up the project.
There you have it. A look inside my head and how I analyze the things I do in my classroom. Many changes to come and my classroom is slowly starting to resemble who I am as an educator and reflect my education philosophy. It takes work. But it is worth it!