Letting Imaginations Go Free

A post from Saturday that wasn’t published until now…

For the past week and a bit we had been studying Nunavut by exploring the geography, language and Inuit legends. As I was teaching one of the last lessons on the unit I got the clearest sign a teacher can get that it is time to finish things up. A conscientious student turned to me and said “Miss Bertram, when will we be done this unit? And are we going to do anything to wrap it up like a project? “.  That small comment instantly communicated to me that this wasn’t fun for them anymore and the students were beginning to become disengaged.

Luckily the night before I had read a post entitled an “Hour of Wonder”  by  Mrs Ripp. The post describes how she gave her fourth grade class one hour to research anything that they were wondering about in the unit they had just finished studying. They were to produce a product at the end of the hour and had to present about what they had learnt at the next class. It was just the inspiration my little social studies unit needed!

With a little tweaking to the original project idea I introduced our version of “Hour of Wonder” to the students.

  • Choice of topic  The choice of topic was left open as long as it clearly related to Canada’s North or the Arctic. I made it clear open meant open: science, math, anthropology, geography, political structure were all acceptable. Oh yes, choice left the kids googly eyed but variety is the spice of life and we sure have that going in the choices of topics!
  • Product produced This was also left open to students but it had to show their learning. I was yet again met by stunned looks but they caught on very quickly.  It seems most groups are doing posters as this is something they have not yet had the opportunity to do this year but some are also doing models and dioramas.
  • Grouping Initially this was going to be an individual endevour but after a number of requests to work in groups the students were given the choice to partner up. Of course the three most energetic, most likely to get into trouble, boys requested to work together. I placed my trust in them and they have amazed me with their work! (Just goes to show never underestimate students)
  • Rubric. The students were given a rubric to guide them through their projects and what my expectations were. The focus of the rubric is topic selection and relation to Canada’s North, presentation of final product (i.e. neatness), research and self-reflection. The criteria are purposefully broad in nature as the goal is for them to use it as a guide rather than a step by step road map for what to do.  Perhaps the most important part of the assessment piece for me is the self-reflection part. It gives me feedback on the project and what the students did and did not like. But more importantly it gives students to look back on what they did and what they found easy or difficult.

We started off with a one period brainstorming session. I went to the local library and collected all the books I could on various topics to do with Canada’s North and gave them to the kids to look through and find inspiration.  They were asked to come up with a topic of interest to them and to start thinking of what they wanted to produce at the end of the project. They were asked to brainstorm questions they wanted to attempt to answer during their research.  My collaborating teacher suggested we make booklets where they could store all their information. It also acts as a nice place to put the rubric to allow students to easily refer back to! ( At a later date I will post a picture of the ingenious booklet she came up with!)

After the brainstorming session they could not wait to get started on the research. They were positively buzzing! Every morning when the students walked in I was asked “Are we working on social studies today?”. What a wonderful feeling!

We had three sessions of research, followed by one  session where students have started producing their products. I was sick yesterday so I hope that when I arrive on Monday the students will be finished and ready to present at some point in the week!

Advertisements