Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Use Your Summer for Lesson Planning

The National Writing Project is putting on a Connected Learning MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) this summer.

I first learned about Connected Learning through an #engchat on Twitter led by Seecantrill.  So far, as I understand it, Connected Learning uses digital tools to break down classroom walls - learning takes place in the classroom, but continues outside the classroom, thanks, in part, to social media and other tools that can be used to share ideas.  I don't know if that's completely right.  In fact, just now looking up what NWP calls it, it's much more than that: "Connected Learning is a model of learning that holds out the possibility of reimagining the experience of education in the information age.  It draws on the power of today's technology to fuse young people's interests, friendships, and academic achievement through experiences laced with hands-on production, shared purpose, and open networks."  Here's their infographic that explains it so much better than I do.  [UPDATE: I forgot to mention my one concern with this - around 25% of my students don't have cell phones/text/data plans or computer access outside of school.  So all of their out-of-classroom learning needs to take place face to face?]

So week one was to make a "How To . . ."  This was a good "get to know you" activity - some made "makes" that were "How to be so-and-so."  Others taught a skill they knew something about.  Here's mine (better late than never):

This week is learning through the use of memes.  I believe mine is academic, and should appeal to the students I had last year:

It appeals to my interests, but I don't think I can ask my students to make a meme on the sentence of the week and call it connected learning.

Look out for more memes here and whatever makes I'm assigned in coming weeks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

I first got the idea for this from a conference session presented by Myron Dueck in December.  His example was with history content knowledge.  I adapted it for content knowledge on The Crucible.

We read the first three acts of The Crucible before winter break and were coming back in January to read the fourth act (in Oregon, the semester ends at the end of January).  I wanted a review of the plot before we tackled the final act.

So I created 18 multiple choice questions on the major plot points of the first three acts and grouped them in pairs as nine Google forms that wouldn't let them go on to the second question until they answered the first correctly.

Then I set it all up as a scavenger hunt using QR Codes to link to the Google forms.  Students who had smart phones and a data plan formed groups with those who didn't.  Then groups used their phones to scan the codes and answer the review questions.

Answer both questions correctly, and you'd get your next clue.

Most of the codes were posted in the school building, but my personal favorite was the one I posted across school grounds by the football stadium.

The students loved walking all the way over there.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

American Literature Units Chosen by Students

This year I decided to ask my students to vote on the units they would study in American Literature.  A big thank you to all those who helped refine my list of topics and corresponding texts.

For those who are interested, here is the final list I gave my students to choose from.  Here's the raw data from voting results.

And here are the units I'm teaching this year:

  • Classroom and School Community (my unit to start off the year)
  • Witch Hunts (The Crucible as an anchor text with literature circles on books about Salem witch trials, modern adaptations, and 1950s McCarthyism)
  • Horror Stories (Edgar Allen Poe, I Am Legend, and possibly In Cold Blood)
  • Terrorism (Not sure yet; maybe literature circles with some YA texts like Ghosts of War, Sunrise Over Fallujah1, but also some non-YA texts like Manhunt)
  • Dark Times in America (Snow Falling on Cedars?  All the President's Men?  Other texts about times America was on the wrong side of history)
  • In my district, in 11th grade they write a pretty extensive research paper.  I may do this with the horror stories unit because I have a number of students who are really interested in serial killers2, or I may do this as a separate unit.
I'm still finishing up the school community unit, but from what I saw the first days, the unit selection earned me some street cred3, and in some ways it made my job easier - I wouldn't be able to cover all of American Literature in a year.  One of my colleagues says he rarely gets past transcendentalism.  This way I cover a wider breadth historically and have greater engagement from my students.

Next time, I think I may just give students a list of units.  I gravitated towards those results since I already had an idea of what I could do with them, and I think they are more engaging to the students as well rather than a list of historical eras.

1. Those these are more related to the War in Iraq than terrorism directly . . . Go back.
2. Yeah, it's a little creepy.  Go back.
3. Not street cred.  Some other type of cred.  But more than just regular ol' credibility.  Cred.  Go back.