One of the tricks I used to use when I was working in a unit was to take some of the ancillary topics and to create short assignments with them to be done over the period of the unit. This would allow for some in depth looks at the topic or highlight some of the fun trivia that went along with the content. This would peak the students interest, showcase some of the material that was interesting that we didn’t have time to cover as well as allow the kids to flex their creative muscle.
For example if we were studying Darwin and evolution then there would be the main content about his time in the Galápagos Islands and how he developed his theory but we could never really get into depth about why this was an ideal place for his research.
How many kinds of species? (Not just the number but look at the actual variety)
What does it look like today?
Has their been any follow up research to Darwin’s and does it support or contradict his work?
Maybe there was a question the student had even if it was a bit off topic that they would like to answer. There are so many possibilities to extend learning but how would you have the time? Mini-lessons.
Start by putting all the possibilities down on a single sheet (at a later date the students can help define this list). If you must, most textbooks are filled with this stuff and so it is only a matter of organization. Once you have collected the lot, assign 3 of them to be due over the period of the unit. Hopefully there is room for videos, slides, comics and drawings as well as traditional reporting. Have them chose their 3 and turn them in at different intervals. Don’t worry about what the product is or if you can help them along the way. Invite tech to be a tool and let them figure out how it works. They will not struggle too long without asking a friend or figuring it out. Focus on the process of their learning as you are a master of leading students along that path. If they decorate that path in a new way or find a mode of transportation that better suits their needs but still get to their destination then it is definitely called a successful trip. Allow them to exceed your expectations.
Seems like more work
Hopefully they will try a variety of methods of conveying their learnings and you can simply grade them on whether or not they have conveyed adequately. The nice thing is that the kids are learning and in the ways they like and it isn’t more work for you. You have to look at them but with a good rubric you can get through a class in an hour or so depending on how much of a fine toothed comb you are using. Give it a try.
The Gateway Drug…to tech integration
The two easiest ways to step into the world of tech is to have students collaborate on a project and to have them give presentations. There are so many ways for students to collaborate and build upon each other’s ideas including sharing a doc or doing collaborative slides, brainstorming topics and creating videos. Ask the questions pulled together in these mini-lessons and see what they come up with. Remember, let them figure out how it all works and you make sure they reach understanding of the content. The exploration of the topic will be far superior to any data-driven worksheet created. Use their innate curiosity to bring it to the next level.
1. Choose one topic or lesson that you would normally teach for the unit.
2. Brainstorm what interesting questions come up around that topic. Do this with the students for added learning fun.
3. Have them choose 3 of those questions to seek out the answers and interesting tidbits about.
4. Have them illustrate each of those in a way that suits their style of learning. Encourage to choose a different style for each question. (ex. comic, video, dramatization, multimedia display)
5. Have them present it to the class, in small groups or post to a class website.
Share your own ideas below.