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

Harness the Power

Wind Turbines by xedos4

I have been teaching in this school for four years and therefore I have had the opportunity to get to know my students and work with them over these 40 school months. Some students have been easy to get to know right away, others I have had to use every bit of these four years to really understand them well. I have one student who has been, until last year, has been a bit of an occasional crabby patty (to quote a term from Spongebob). If this student did not like what we were going to do, I knew about it in no uncertain terms, it was written all over his face.

And then we unearthed it–his interest and passion. It happened by accident really. His classroom teacher and I decided to embark on two exciting activities: Mystery Skype and Independent- completely separate from the school curriculum, follow their passion and interest- Research Projects.

When the teacher and I introduced the topic and the idea to the class, you would have thought we just told this child that Christmas just became a monthly holiday. I began getting emails from the child telling me how excited he is to be doing these projects, or how much he loved the website I shared with him, how much he enjoys having the responsibility of the (insert skype job here).  The child began sharing his expertise with the class in such a proud way and asking to do more. The teacher and I were thrilled, of course, at how readily and excitedly all of the students took to these ideas; but for me, I was especially motivated by this one child’s response, and my goal is to use this excitement and interest and build upon it to keep him and the rest of the students engaged, excited and interested.

One always hopes to reach all of their students. My question is this, if we have the access to the technology to connect these students with their passions and incite in them an interest, why aren’t more teachers harnessing this power and using it for all it’s worth?

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