Monday, March 25, 2013

What Do They Want to Learn?

eagerIn Genius Hour — Let Your Students Challenge Themselves from Angela Maiers, Speaker, Educator, Writer, Angela Maiers asks,

“What would happen if we gave kids one hour a week to work on anything they wanted?”

Having students give input on what they want to learn is a great way for them to get engaged in learning. Whenever students have given me input on anything and I listened to what they had to say, they felt empowered. I think this was a great way for them to get excited about learning.

When planning a topic of instruction, I asked them to give me some ideas of what they wanted to learn about that topic. I jotted down their ideas and then reviewed it with them. When teaching the topic, I tried to include their ideas if possible. At the end of the lesson or unit, I went over their ideas with them and summarized the learning to show that I took their input seriously.

Usually before a holiday or vacation, my students would get antsy. So about a month before, I would have them write down things they wanted to know more about. I would schedule a time for the library and have them find a magazine article (number of words for the article differed according to the student’s reading ability) and have it approved by me. Then I would use that article for lessons in class. They would practice reading and comprehension using this article. After they were done with the article, they worked on way to present their information to the class. On the last day before vacation, each student would give their presentation. This was a great way to make the last week before a vacation meaningful and keep students engaged in learning.

Since I taught a special education self contained class, I had many students for multiple years. At the end of the year I would have them write down topics that they wanted to learn about the following year. I would take their requests and match them up with state standards in order to formulate a plan for the year. Students requested topics such as dinosaurs, the Civil War, astronomy, the Holocaust, the Korean War, recycling, bugs, picture framing, and cooking. When I would teach a topic, returning students frequently would tell new students that the chose this topic. New students were amazed at how much input they were allowed in class.

When a student is learning about something that interests them, it makes classroom time so much more fun. Students are excited about learning and want to know more. It was pretty easy to incorporate most of the state standards with these topics. Reading, comprehension, grammar, writing was standard for most topics. Scientific inquiry and measurement was easily used in most topics. Then I was able to assess student’s understanding in different ways according to their different abilities.

Teaching this way was a win-win situation for all and it was a hit in the classroom.

Do you give students choices or input into their learning? If so, please share.

Image: 'Glutton'
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Sioux Roslawski said...

Often I do give my students a choice, but not always, because on the state assessment, they will not have a choice about what they write about.

If we're doing a research project on animals, for example, I will let my students choose which animal they research. It makes their writing more vivid when they're interested in the subject, and motivates them as well...

loonyhiker said...

@Sioux You made a great point. It is important to explain to students that sometimes they won't be given a choice. But sometimes if I have given them a variety of topics, they can relate the new prompt to something they have already done. That is why it is important for them to have a lot of options in their "bag of tricks!"

jenniferscott said...

Good and best post. Given them a variety of topics..