“We can do better”

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I really enjoyed reading Shelley Wright’s blog, “The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching.”  Wright had her 10th grade English class create a museum about the Holocaust.  The material, information, and themes were completely up to her students. Wright must be a great teacher and one that is well loved by her students.  And good for her for not repeating another unit where she is a dispensary of information for her students.

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I wanted to learn more about Wright’s experience.  She mentioned working for six hours straight on this project one day.  How is this possible?  Didn’t she have other classes to teach?  Didn’t the students have Algebra or English?  And what about all of the resources they used?  Did she front the cost or did her students contribute?  This blog truly inspired me to want to have project based learning units in my classroom one day.

But I wonder how this could be done in an elementary setting. Younger students often need more structure and guidance from their teacher.  High schoolers have learned how to “do” schooling and they should have the discipline to be able to lead their own learning.

Fortunately, Wright included a YouTube video in her blog where Michael Lehmann talked about how much “high school sucks” and how it needs to change.  I loved how he said that schools should teach us how to learn.  It’s not just about the elements on the periodic table or Shakespeare and all of his plays.  It’s about acquiring the ability and desire to learn.  I also really liked Lehmann’s idea of benchmark projects instead of benchmark tests.  When students know that they are going to create a visual project that is real, they are going to typically put forth more effort.  Benchmark projects (and not just a poster or diorama) could be easily incorporated into an elementary classroom.

I felt so inspired after reading this blog.  I want my students to enjoy my classes as much as I hope to enjoy teaching them.  I absolutely plan to incorporate project based learning in my classroom.  I often hear about teachers feeling burnt out.  If they took Shelley’s approach and completely revamp their units, I bet that they wouldn’t feel so burnt out!  Probably exhausted, though…

 

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