“Keep on Swimming”

This week Fifth Grade accomplished (and learned) a lot. Silvia and I are collaborating on a project comparing the pioneers of Jamestown to the pioneers of the digital world. (I wish I could take credit for the idea, but it is all Silvia.)
The class met with Silvia and began brainstorming the idea. The first meeting began with trying to create a KWHLAQ chart. We got as far as the K category and realized that we needed to back up with the students. They really didn’t completely understand the idea of comparing the two categories.
The next class meeting, we gave the students a prompt which was “I am an explorer in the digital world, just as John Smith was an explorer in the new world.”

We had the students open a shared Google Doc and write based on the prompt. Silvia and I were also writing on the doc using the same prompt. When later looking over the students’ work, it was interesting to see the different levels of thinking that were going on in the class. Most understood the prompt and made good points, but there were others who wrote only one sentence and were writing to one another about the Jaguars. Yes, the Jaguars. This really opened my eyes as to what goes on when I think that my students are busy working when I make an assignment.
On Friday, the Fifth Grade went to the library to work with Karin on their e-book that will be about Roanoke. So this time when they were working on their Google docs I was going on their docs at the same time and reading what they were writing as they were working. What a difference in quality my (digital) presence made! Why haven’t I thought of doing this before? They were shocked when I would say, “I think you need to go back and cite where you got your information.” Or, “Is this your opinion or a fact based on your research?” I have never had such a productive class when using the laptops.

I am hoping that the Jamestown project will come together soon. The idea is good; I just need to find a way to help the students dig deeper and start thinking on a higher level. For some reason, the students don’t like to be challenged to go to the next level. They want to do everything quickly and get to the fun part, which hopefully in this case will result in a music video.
With both of these projects, the students have had to move to a more advanced level of critical thinking (and accountability). I know this has been good for them, but is has been a grueling process for us teachers. I keep thinking, “learning is messy” and as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “Keep on swimming, swimming, swimming.”

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Teacher-Twenty-One

February 2013
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