Being in touch with your students is a goal of any good teacher. You want to know what your students are interested in so that you can try to make use of it in your classroom. I talked to a teacher last week about a lesson she was doing in which students turned in a meme they created as their finished project. What a great way to get kids to see big picture and create something using their new knowledge. I have to ask though… why did the assignment sheet say Make a “Meme”? Why is the word meme separated? Why is it singled out or made to look special? I’d be willing to bet that to her students, memes are not anything new or special or exciting. They’re a normal part of everyday. They offer a laugh, are easy to share with friends, and might even be the only way your students get their news. We do this to our students all the time; make their normal seem abnormal. We’ve got to stop. No more, Is That “Tweet” Worthy? worksheets or “emoji” activities. Embrace their culture. Instead have them summarize the novel you read in 140 words or less by actually using Twitter. Encourage them to use emojis in their book review, what better way is there to show how it made them feel? Don’t force them to make memes, make it an option. I’d be willing to bet that your cool, hip, trendy lesson plan is old news to them, so just embrace it and leave the quotation marks at home.
As the education world continues to buzz around student-centeredness and personalized learning, teachers are stepping away from the front of the classroom and allowing their students to dive in head first and take control of their school experience. These are huge milestones which are monumental in our move away from traditional classrooms and toward a system which better prepares students for their futures in our workforce. BUT… (you had to know that was coming) I’d like to push us a step further. How many of your students know what iowacore.gov is and why we use it? I’d like to argue that the Iowa Core doesn’t need to be a secret, but instead should be used as a tool in our student-centered classrooms. Here’s why:
Students, like us, want to know why.
Maybe showing them the standards the state sets will help them understand the “why” or maybe it won’t, but here is a first step which eliminates the middleman (you) and helps students be held accountable for their performance.
Speaking of the middleman, why do we need one?
If we are truly student-centered, why does the teacher need to hold anything a secret? What is so bad about the students being involved with the whole process. I’d argue that giving your students all the information from the get-go gives them that much more of an advantage as they think, explore, and learn in your classroom.
Who is it really all about anyway?
You’re not gaining anything from keeping this information to yourself. Nothing. Nada. Relinquish control. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Face it, they're more creative than you anyway.
Your students, like it or not, probably have better ideas than you some of the time. If you hide the end goal from them (whether you realize it or not), you’re sacrificing those totally awesome, out-of-the-box ideas which rarely come from a seasoned educator. Their ideas may need some coaching, redirecting, or (hopefully) could even need to be reeled back in a ways, but there’s no harm there, and in fact that’s what you’re there for! My point is, your ideas aren’t always the best ideas, so why not give your students ALL the tools to get the very most out of their school experience?
Accountability. Accountability. Accountability.
It’s hard to hold someone accountable for something they don’t understand. How can you expect your students to meet standards they don’t know about? Give them all the information in the beginning, and use that to push them further. Set the bar high.
Your tech-savvy students won’t need help navigating the easy-to-use Iowa Core sight, so there’s nothing stopping you from letting them in on the secret. Why not? Here's a video from Palisades Community School District about their approach to personalized learning. Once you've watched, how can you take something like this and better help your students understand the why? Try showing them the CORE!
Pinterest is an awesome tool for educators to share resources, lessons, and other ideas for their classes and classrooms, but are there other ways to use this site in the classroom? Of course there are! Odds are your students know what Pinterest is. Whether it be a horror story of mom’s latest Pinterest recipe, like this one my mom thought we'd give to all the distant relatives for Christmas, or the arts and crafts project no one wants to mention, I’d be willing to bet Pinterest isn’t just a blip on the average student’s radar. So how can we utilize this awesome tool to drive learning? Pinterest may have one of the greatest organizational designs I’ve ever used. Your homepage is specifically designed to deliver pins you’ve marked as interesting to you or that you search frequently. Past that, you can follow specific topics, people, or even down to one person’s specific board. And that’s not even all. You can create your own boards, and as many of them as you’d like. This comes in handy when you remember that website from 3 months ago and really need to find it fast. If you’ve pinned it to your resources board, it’ll be right there where you left it. So what does this look like for your students? Let’s ask Pinterest! What about using it to collect useful resources for a project? It could be a get-to-know-you activity for the whole year if all your students followed one another. Maybe you could use it to organize projects and topics. The ideas are endless, and I’d love to hear your ideas! Happy Pinning!
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