Pink Sherbet Photography

One of the fourth grade teachers and I decided a couple of months ago to let her students have some independent research time so they could follow their passion and learn about whatever they wanted. The students were really excited about the idea of being able to choose whatever interested them and have time to seek out the information.

The teacher was also excited but a little hesitant about what we would actually get from the kids-would they really use their time to learn information, are they just playing?

We started by introducing the idea to the kids who immediately began percolating with possible topics. Here are their topics:

  1. Our resident artist chose to learn more about Picasso
  2. Our gamers chose to learn more about game design
  3. Our animal lovers chose to further their knowledge of the animals they love-big cats and turtles
  4. Our fashionista chose to learn more about an area designer Tory Burch
  5. Our class baker wanted to learn more about cake design
  6. Our class astronomer wanted to learn more about the planets
  7. Our writers wanted to spend more time writing so they began writing blogs

During their independent research time the students were researching, reading, emailing and skyping with experts in their field. Each time we were able to connect the students with a real person they were so excited to actually be in touch with people who could help tell them what it as really like to follow their passion!

Yesterday the students started to share their research with us and the teacher and I have been so impressed and inspired by what we are seeing. Our game designers went first. A group of four boys and one girl researched online and skyped with a game design class in California to learn about the program they used. These students then went on to create their own games.

The other students in the class were so inspired and motivated by what they saw that they are already thinking about what they are going to do the next time around!

Why did I spend 340 words telling you all this you wonder? A few reasons:

  1. This teacher took a risk with her class allowing them to have this time to follow their interests
  2. The students showed that if they were allowed, they could do so much
  3. There is value in allowing students to follow their passion
  4. Finally, and to me most importantly, these students are excited about learning and can’t wait to do it again! Need I say more?

Have you tried this with your class? How did it work? Would you do it again?

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc

Fun With Fourth Grade

Fresh Idea by jscreationzs

I have been spending a lot of time in one of the fourth grade classes. The teacher and I have a nice relationship and she and I have fun working together. The great thing about this teacher is her willingness to try new things and take risks. This is a teacher who has been teaching for many years, knows what she knows and is not afraid to admit what she she doesn’t. So, she and I spend time in her class trying out new things together. We are currently preparing for a Mystery Skype call so we wanted the children to compile a list of facts about our state so they would be ready to answer the other class’s questions. Fortunately the class just completed their study of our state so the skype call will be a great way to purposefully use what they learned and do it in a fun way. We were going to have them just create a Word document and then merge the contents but at the last minute I thought, “let’s try using a backchannel.” Since the teacher and I have that kind of relationship, she said to go ahead and do it (not knowing what I was really talking about). I set up a Today’s Meet room for our facts, showed the kids how it works and they were off and running. The facts were quickly popping up and the kids were excited to see their classmates ideas in real time. I sprinkled in a few reminders and suggestions along the way and the kids responded to these. By the time we were finished we had quite a list. At that point we took the facts and tried to see which ones were useful in narrowing down our location on a map since those are the type of questions we will probably be answering. We printed out our transcript so she could take a closer look at which students were participating, what facts they each added to our list, etc.

What we saw from this activity is how much the students remember and also how easily the kids were able to jump into trying out this tool. The teacher and I immediately talked about other ways she could use this site and she is excited to try it with the Thomas Jefferson movie she shows.

Why this kind of relationship works is because she and I are able to brainstorm together, we are able to laugh and she is able to let go of hesitation and try something new.

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