Course 4: Final Project

Course 5 Final Project Ideas

Possible Writing Contest Idea

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the final project.  One of my first ideas was to do something with a Collaborative Creative Writing Contest. My husband and I have talked a lot about the strong writers we have in our classes and desire to celebrate their work more than we currently do.

It is also the 10th year anniversary of our school, so we were thinking that it might be cool to tie in a writing contest with this year’s celebration. Perhaps students would need to learn about the history of the school and how it got to where it is today. This would require them to reach out into the community, interview teachers and board members who helped start the school, etc. Then we were thinking students might collaborate to create a piece of writing or perhaps a video connected to the 10th year anniversary celebration.

Concordia 10th Year Anniversary Monthly Celebration Photo.

Maybe the final piece could even be in the form of a news story about the school’s past and present. Or we could give students a creative writing prompt and somehow connect it to the school. I also thought about having students collaborate with one of the art students to create illustrations that go along with the writing. In the end, this could be displayed or presented in May when we have a big 10-year anniversary celebration.

I still really like this idea, but ended up thinking I might go with this second idea. I’d still like to know of any writing contests that elementary international students can get involved in. Some of my students have such great writing. I’d love to find more opportunities for them to get their work seen. Does anyone have any ideas?

Social Justice Issues

The idea that I think I will go with is redesigning the current Social Justice Issues Unit designed by the former grade 4 teachers.  This is a Reading and Writing Unit in which students learn about different social issues through research and using the read aloud, “Amal Unbound.”

Students choose real-world issues and problems (gender inequality, racism, equal education access, etc.), develop ideas and theories around these issues, and pursue answers and solutions.

Some of the changes I would make to this unit are incorporating collaboration by pairing students based on interest in a topic. Students could create a website or blog to keep track of their resources and document their learning.

In the end, students will use their research and knowledge to create a collaborative TedTalk that will be presented in front of an audience of parents and students. The objective of the TedTalk is to raise awareness on the social justice issue.

Because public speaking will be new for the students, they will also collaborate with the high school communications class. These students will be able to give helpful tips and advice to 4th-grade students.

Real-World Application

Another component that I’d like to add to this unit is finding ways to extend learning through real-world application. This is one area of my teaching that I need to push myself in.

In Vietnam, students have access to many different social enterprises such as Blue Dragon, Crazy Love Foundation, and School on a Boat. Having access to these types of organizations will allow students to see how individuals can make a change. This is also one of the 6 Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design. Students can reach out to these organizations to learn more about their work and to find out how they were able to make change through their social enterprise.

The 6 Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design offer some guidance in how to successfully design a social justice unit.

Taken from usingtheirwords. org-Designed by Sheryl Davis at San Francisco Human Rights Commission

To meet Element 6: Social Action students will take part in taking social action. Students will need to use the Design Thinking process to tackle a problem connected to their research and Ted Talk. This is the part that will be a challenge for me. It is hard to envision at least 10 different independent projects going at the same time. For anyone that has done something similar, I’d love some advice or any insight? How do you incorporate the real-world application into your classrooms?

Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness From A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning. Real-World Application is over on the far-right. Pushing myself towards the far-right is a goal of mine.

Deep learning experiences are engaging,relevant, authentic and build the 6 C’s.

Michael Fullan 

This unit plan will take students through a deep learning experience that will promote the 6C’s and meet the following ISTE Standards.

ISTE Standards

Standard 1 Empowered Learner: Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving, and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.

Standard 3 Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Standard 4 Innovative Designer: Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.

Standard 5 Computational Thinker Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions.

5b Students collect data or identify relevant data sets, use digital tools to analyze them, and represent data in various ways to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making.

Standard 6 Creative Communicator Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.

Standard 7 Global Collaborator Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.

Any Advice or Tips?

If any of you have taught a social justice unit, I’d love to hear how it went? Or if you have any experience with teaching students how to give a TedTalk type or presentation, I’d love to hear about it! I am also feeling a little uncertain about the real-world application part of this unit. I can’t envision how I will be able to manage all of the different things my students want to take part in. I’d love to hear from any of you with experience with these types of learning experiences.

Putting Deep Learning Into Practice

Give yourself some Grace

Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness From A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

 

As I mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, I think I am currently in the process of pushing myself away from more traditional methods to new pedagogies that promote deep learning. Being in COETAIL has definitely helped push me along the Continuum of New Pedagogies Effectiveness.

What I’ve come to realize through all the work and reflecting I’ve done throughout each course is that I need to give myself some grace. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the work I still need to do in order to make the shift towards deep learning. I want to redesign all of my units so they foster deep learning experiences, but this is not an easy task. Instead, I try to remind myself that this will happen over time. Right now, I can focus on one unit at a time. Eventually, I’ll get to where I want to be on the right side of the continuum. 

Assessing Deep Learning

Because deep learning tasks move beyond the textbook, standardized tests don’t always work when assessing students. However, there are many authentic ways to assess students. 

Chapter 5 of A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning gives examples of authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate new knowledge in a more impactful, authentic way. 

Examples of Authentic Assessments

-Student-created rubrics with sections for content knowledge that needs to mastered as well as areas that include the 6c’s such as creativity and collaboration.

-Teachers can use mini-assessments throughout the learning to see if the concepts are mastered, for example in math.

 -Students can give oral presentations to teachers or a panel to demonstrate their learning (the panel can ask students questions to push their thinking)

-Public exhibitions to display student work

-Writing Pieces

-Website development

-Student-Created TedTalk

Ultimately, our goal as facilitators of learning is to get students to move beyond reproducing existing content knowledge to developing new knowledge, “through the integration of prior knowledge with ideas, information and concepts, into a wholly new product, concept, solution or content.”  Furthermore, we want our students to go beyond creating new knowledge to doing something with it – to use that new knowledge to make an impact on the world.

Design Thinking

This year our elementary school has a designated S.T.E.M. teacher (also a COETAIL Alumni) that works closely with the teachers to create learning opportunities that promote deep learning. During a recent Science unit on Earth’s Changes, students investigated the causes and effects of erosion and deposition. Then we were able to extend students’ learning by working with the S.T.E.M. teacher to create an opportunity for students to problem-solve some possible solutions.  

Students used the Design Thinking process to investigate possible ways to reduce the destruction caused by landslides. The central region of Vietnam was hit particularly hard this year by heavy rain and tropical storms. These storms caused flooding, landslides, and death. We were able to make this investigation more realistic by having students research what had happened here in the country we are living in. Then students came up with possible solutions and tried them out using stream tables.

Stream Table Investigation on Erosion

Design Thinking Challenge

Challenge Notebook

To take this unit all the way to the right of the continuum shown above, students would need to actually go out in the real world and try out their solutions.  Perhaps, even meet with experts who plan for these types of natural disasters to share their ideas and to learn more. They could even fundraise to rebuild a home in a way that they have researched or tested that would sustain a substantial amount of rain. I think this is the piece I am currently missing in my practice; taking learning to the next level.

It’s a Process

When I think about the next level, doing real things in the world, it can honestly be a bit intimidating. I wonder when I will ever have time to plan for this type of teaching; especially being in a new grade level on a team of two. But then I remind myself that it doesn’t all need to happen at once. I can start off small with one unit at a time. Then I can build upon that. Perhaps next year, I can take the Science Unit I described above and add the next step of real-world application. It is important is to have a desire to change. Then to start taking small steps in the right direction. This describes my journey right now. The desire is there and I am taking small steps. I’ll keep going!

Unleashing Deep Learning

Set the Tone

I really enjoyed listening to Brené Brown’s Daring Classrooms Keynote. Her message of vulnerability is so powerful.  In particular, these words really stuck with me, “Make the world a better place. The revolution will not be televised, it will be in your classrooms.” These words are so powerful because they are true! Teachers really do have the power to make a huge impact right inside the walls of our very own classrooms! 

Her thought-provoking message also sparked lots of past teaching moments to come to mind for me. The good thing is that I think I am doing a pretty darn good job of teaching vulnerability to my students. I think this is actually one of my strengths as a teacher. I build a loving, classroom environment that feels like one big family. And it doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes intentional decision-making skills and time. 

All humans need to feel connected. (Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash)

Building a classroom community with a dialogical learning approach that is filled with humility, love,  faith, hope, and critical thinking are essential to developing strong relationships with and amongst students. I set the tone for this work from day one in a variety of ways including a careful selection of read-aloud books, getting students connected through Morning Meeting, and getting students working in collaborative groups through games like Breakout EDU. The more students interact and connect with one another, the more likely they are to feel comfortable enough to be themselves in the classroom.

Students work together to solve the puzzles in a recent Breakout EDU game.

Some of my favorite beginning of the year read alouds are Each Kindness, Raise Your Hand, The Day You Begin, Say Something, and All Are Welcome. I choose these books for their messages. Messages of humility, love, faith, hope, and critical thinking. Messages I believe are important and hopefully, messages that students will hear and believe in, themselves.

Teaching vulnerability is done through both the big and small actions of a teacher. Doing things like taking a stance on unkind behaviors such as name-calling, using Restorative Circles,  sharing personal experiences, and listening to students, all contribute to creating a classroom environment that feels safe.

Allowing Yourself to Be Vulnerable

One of the biggest ways I’ve been able to connect with my students is by showing them my vulnerabilities. By showing students that I am vulnerable, they see that I am a real person with feelings, insecurities, and fears. Students appreciate this honesty.

During a recent Opinion Writing Unit,  I modeled how to write an opinion essay using my own example. This was my thesis statement and reasons: I need to have more confidence in myself because I worry about what others think too much; there are times I want to speak up and I don’t, and I have skills I could share with my peers.

Writing this essay in front of my students allowed me to share my own insecurities with them. Many of them were surprised to hear that I get so nervous to speak in front of my peers or that I am afraid to speak up at times. Some students connected to these feelings so much that they shared times when they felt the same way. Because I showed vulnerability to my students, they felt a sense of relief to know that adults have insecurities and things they struggle with just like children do.

My Personal Essay

My personal essay that I shared with students for our Opinion Writing Unit.

Here’s Some Humility

Another way that I’ve been able to connect with students is by showing humility. In Paulo Freire’s Five Ideas for Dialogical Learning , he describes humility as the ability to learn from and understand students (humble approach), rather than taking a more directive approach. 

This is the story that comes to mind when I think of how I’ve shown humility in my classroom.

In my classroom, students can earn team points by transitioning quickly, working together, being helpful, being kind, and many other ways. I keep track of the daily winners on a color-coded calendar in the classroom that teams fill in at the end of each day if their team won. At the end of the month, the team with the most days won gets recognized in class for their efforts. I take a picture of the team and hang it on the “Wall of Fame” along with their team flag. They also get a small reward such as eating lunch outside, extra recess, or extra tech time.

Image by HeungSoon from Pixabay

For a few weeks, I incorporated a few rounds of rock, paper, scissors in the last 3 minutes of class for fun. Students could win extra points for their teams if they won the round. On occasion, winning rock, paper, scissors could lead a team to victory for that day, meaning they got to color in the calendar square.

One student really did not agree with this strategy. He felt like it wasn’t fair; especially since his team had worked hard all day and then they ended up losing because of rock, paper, scissors. The day after this happened to his team, he politely walked up to me and handed me a handwritten 5 paragraph essay title, “Why We Shouldn’t Play Rock, Paper, Scissors for Points.”

He had obviously put a lot of thought and time into writing this essay for me. He had strong reasons and evidence, used a convincing tone, and was respectful at the same time. After reading the essay, I could see his point. He felt that I might be discouraging students from trying hard if they would end up losing in rock, paper, scissors. A game that had nothing to do with teamwork, kindness, or being helpful.

What did I do next?

Love

I asked the boy if I could share what he had done because I wanted all of my students to see how important it is to SAY SOMETHING when they do not agree with someone, even if it is an adult. He agreed.

During our Morning Meeting, I shared the story with my students and let them know how proud I was of the boy for speaking up. I shared how his essay helped me see that my choice in using a game towards team points wasn’t the best idea. I shared how his actions were able to help me learn and grow as a teacher.

What I really appreciated about this boy’s courage to write an essay to his teacher stating why he disagrees with a choice I made, was that he felt safe enough to do so in the first place. That’s love.

I think it all really boils down to love. Teachers who truly love kids are some of the best. If you really love kids, you enjoy your time each day with them, you work hard for them; you stick up for them; you advocate for them, and you show you appreciate them. They will notice this. They will love you for it. They will respect you. They will work harder for you. This is why I teach.