It’s amazing how much students can do when they are given a little freedom, time, and a computer. I’ve taken a giant leap back from providing information and expecting my class to remember it. Most of my lessons are driven by collaborative work between students. The lessons take a social constructivism approach to learning where students are encouraged to explore, discover, and create their own understanding while working with others and sharing their ideas and information. Students are expected to work together in teams with a common inquiry goal.
The students' first science project gave them the chance to explore different biomes and consider which environment they would consider the best home. Students were able to choose their environment, which naturally selected the groups with common interests. They then used critical thinking by asking questions such as how would a plant or animal survive in this environment. Raul noticed that the grassland environment required camouflage for both predators and prey to survive and decided that he would be well suited to survive in this environment as long as he could wear camouflage clothing. As the students researched through their textbook and other informational texts provided, they discovered what essential elements were required in the various biomes. They were able to present their findings orally in a presentation supported by a student created Prezi (slideshow) on the Promethean Board. By giving the students choices, they were able to buy in to the project with a deeper level of interest. Their natural curiosity drove their learning and exploration, and they were able to work in a group to aide in the process of comprehending informational text. The students were able to use academic language both in class and at home. Some parents noted how impressed they were with their child's correct use of scientific language. Their speaking and listening abilities have grown tremendously in addition to content knowledge.
Here is a sample of one of the projects:
Akilah Ponds, Teacher and RAFT Fellow