Redefining the Scaffold: The Climb from Teaching to Learning.
Part I. Constructing the building blocks needed for success on a cross-curricular differentiated project.
At the end of my first full academic school year with THINK Global School, I reflected on my transition and development as an educator moving from teaching to learning. This was not easy for an idealist like me, who is honored to be called a ‘teacher’. I coped with this transition and became a better and more creative educator by changing the way I assess student work. At the beginning of our Boston term, I used basic assessments which would become the foundation for future tasks. I wanted to give them time to get acclimated to Boston and talk about the origins and motives of settlers coming to the United States. Boston being an ideal place to discuss colonization up until we went on the Freedom Trail to experience the political climate before the Revolution. Unit 1: “In Their Shoes” journal entries allowed student creativity while honing their writing skills. These are practice pieces where student should show effort and growth in English writing skills. ESL students had an opportunity to practice their historical and creative writing. ‘In their shoes’ journals provide a gateway for our students to empathize and understand the plight of the ‘other.’ By understanding the ‘other’ they may come to better understand themselves. The Unit 1: New Land to New Nation test was basic recall and analysis of important information regarding the colonization of the US, Boston history and the causes of the American Revolution. Admittedly, there was no differentiation present. The goal was to expose them to the testing environment, which they would see in June. Unit 2: Land of the Free, right? looked at the United States Constitution and the ongoing pursuit of “All men are created equal.” ‘In their shoes’ journals covered the voyage on the slave ship Amistad, the life of Frederick Douglas, George Custer and Red Cloud. In the Freedom Trail Video Project, students had to re-create their part of the freedom trail in pairs. When I received their finished product I realized that this was an unsuccessful project. I should have provided more class time for them to storyboard. I learned they needed a bit more guidance when giving them larger projects. I decided to break things into pieces a bit and build the scaffold to ensure that they would produce creative projects that involve a cross-curricular skill set. The next project they would be practicing effective communication and presentation skills while developing their creative side. The Us and Them Project was an Oral Presentation with Infographic. Students used skills from New Media Lab (our 21st Century skills class) to create an informative, graphic image that would be the backbone of their oral presentation explaining human rights violations in US history. Students had freedom in the type of infographic they made and the presentation style, but the topic was assigned to them.
Students Work and Reflections
“Doing the infographic was cool, and something I’ve never done before so I learned a lot about creating them.” – Yuan Yuan
“I think us and them was very helpful because it allowed us to research more and get in touch with our creative side instead of freaking out about an essay.” – Melissa
While they were creating and planning this presentation they began writing a ‘FreddyD‘ essay based on the The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Students chose essay questions to investigate while reading the book. Their investigations sometimes were brought into class discussions from students but was otherwise the reading and writing was completely self-paced. It was here that I first implemented a Global Thinking Routine, which spilled out from our work with Harvard’s Project Zero. Here is the video that I made to explain the use of both the ‘See, Think, Wonder’ and ‘Step Inside, Resolve’ GTR’s during Unit 2.
By the end of Unit 2, students had created informative visual content and presented it effectively. They also self-paced themselves with their steadily improving reading and writing skills. In Unit 3, they will build upon these skills even further.
Click here to continue reading about the assessment for Redefining the Scaffold: Part II.