Saturday, March 12, 2016

Letting Students Choose Research and Going Outside the Classroom

Jess Fraser

It’s so difficult to choose my best teaching moment of all time, so I’ll choose a project that empowered students to have a voice and to interact outside of their classroom.  Two years ago, my fifth graders in Anaheim collaborated with fifth graders in La Habra on a science project.  In groups of four, two from Anaheim and two from La Habra, students used Skype to communicate with one another, Docs to plan and collaborate, and Flipboard to curate their science research.  Each group determined questions they still had unanswered after learning about outer space using their science textbook.  They worked together to find the answers to their questions and place the resources in their shared Flipboard magazine.  At the end of the curation period, groups decided how they would display their learning.


The main reason why this was one of the best teaching moments for me was because my students were fully empowered by having choice in their project.  With many of my students being English learners, communicating via Skype allowed them to develop their language skills in a fun and non-intimidating way.  My students were, for probably the first time in their lives, actually excited about research.  I loved the buzz that this project created and how my students worked after school hours late into the evening, as I enabled notifications to keep track of their activity on Flipboard.  My students said this project gave them more confidence and showed them a new way of learning.  The kids who were normally unmotivated in school told me how much they loved learning throughout this project.  It gave them hope in the fact that they could have voice and choice in their learning.

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