Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Culture of Learning

I switched things up in class today.  No science content at all. 

Yesterday, we returned to school after a four day break.  I anticipated that my 9th grade physical science students would need a little bit of a refresher before we discussed a computer simulation they had completed exploring ionic bonding.  So we backed up a few steps and reviewed the prerequisite knowledge for understanding why and how atoms form ions.  I felt, though, that the students weren't very engaged and that I was doing heavier mental lifting than they were.  By the end of the day, I was frustrated.

Over dinner, I relayed my frustration to my wife, and she said, "well, do something about it."  I said, "what do you mean?  I tried to do something about it and it didn't work!"  She replied, "you're creative - do something different."  Obviously, she doesn't understand my problems.

Later in the evening, I attended the #COLchat (Culture of Learning) meeting on Twitter from 8-9pm CST.  I just learned about the hashtag and meeting last week, so this was my first time attending (I mostly read).  Lots of great questions and answers were scrolling on my Tweetdeck.  It was hard to keep up, but very inspiring!  Afterward I was thinking, "yeah! Culture of learning!  I'm going to change the world!"  But I hadn't come up with any solutions for my classroom.  I decided to forge ahead with curriculum the next day.

Early this morning, I found the newest Marshall Memo in my inbox.  I popped it open and read through the first article summary, which led me to read the entire article on the NYT website.  But more importantly, it led my to read Thomas Friedman's latest op-ed piece How to get a Job at Google, Part 2.  I then read Part 1.  In a nutshell, the articles describe what Google is looking for in new employees, which is pretty much exactly what I'm wanting my students to do.  This is what I needed!

Before class started, I copied and pasted both articles into a document with a defined 2-inch margin on the right side:

and then typed up the following assignment:

As students walked into class, the article and assignment were hot off the press.  I gave them some of the back story I have just written about and then explained what I wanted them to do.  Almost every student really dug in and worked hard.  One of them worked past the bell for about a minute and then said, "Mr. Weiger, this is going to be an entire diary by the time I get done with it today!" as she walked out the door with a smile on her face.  That was fun to hear.

Tomorrow, here's what I plan to do:
  • Give students time to skim the article again and read their notes written on the article and their writing inside their science notebook.
  • Get students into groups of four
    • take a minute each to share their overall comments, thoughts and questions in their small groups
    • as a small group, 
      • come to a consensus and whiteboard the two most important take-aways from each article
      • prepare to discuss their ideas with the large group
  • in a large group setting, each group will present their ideas to the rest of the class, using our class discussion guidelines

Looking forward, I'm really excited to see what tomorrow holds.  I haven't done anything exactly like this before, and I wonder how much the students really took the assignment to heart today.  If you have suggestions or comments, I would love to hear them either in the comment section below, or on Twitter. @boydweiger

Also, I should probably listen to my wife's suggestions more carefully.  Thanks Steph!

1 comment:

  1. Boyd,
    Thank you for sharing the impact the #COLchat had on you to return to your classroom today and take action. I hope that you will share the main take-aways that your students share from the articles and the connections they make with their own learning.

    Have you heard about Genius Hour/20% Time? I wonder if that would bring out more of what you are wanting from students (like the article describes: collaboration, love of learning, leadership, adaptability).

    Thanks for sharing your reflections and for your passion as an educator to change your plans in response to your students' needs!