Student Created Signs

When I returned from the EARCOS Teacher’s Conference 2011, the first thing I did when I got back was tell my students all about what I had learned while there. What I focused on was the realization that I had been giving them too much time to complete tasks, and how this was really hindering them rather than helping them. They were aghast. In that first 90-minute period back they were so much more productive than usual.

First each student created a sign to remind them of the: who, what, when, where, why, and how questions I’m always reminding them of. They had ten minutes; the only requirement was that the word on their sign needed to fill the page. They aren’t beautiful, but they are mostly functional (we always forget that our printer prints darker than the preview).

We are currently working in collaboration with the science teacher to mummify a chicken following, as closely as possible, the method the ancient Egyptians would have used. This led into the next task of the morning. The students were put into pairs (I have six students), and they had another 20 minutes to research one of three questions related to our study of Egyptian mummy making: What are canopic jars? What is a sarcophagus? & How is a mummy made? For all three, they needed to include a list of instructions and supplies. After their research, they had to report back to the class, making sure to reference the: who, what, when, where, why, and how questions from the first part of the morning.

By the end of the period they had created signs, completed research, made a presentation to the class, and gathered supplies from the art room. I don’t think they have ever accomplished so much in one period!

We have yet to accomplish so much in just one class period again, but I have found that in general we are moving at a rate that I find so much more acceptable. I used to regularly lament how long it would take them to complete a task. And this is where I have made the change that I think, has really made the most difference.

We are a 1:1 school, but until recently I have held on to the idea that almost all work needs to be completed in class. Each child takes his/her computer home every day. Why shouldn’t they keep working, especially those that idle away their time during class? My fear was that if they do the work at home, it wouldn’t be theirs. And yes, one student did receive a lot of help on a writing assignment from parents, but in reality it wasn’t more than I would have given in class. I know where she stands as a writer based on what I see her do every day; this in no way hindered my assessment of her.

I have realized there are some things that I really need them to complete in class, but there are so many others that can be done anytime. This has helped us move along faster, because for the past couple of weeks, we haven’t been waiting for a few students to catch up with the rest. Its not perfect because sometimes they don’t finish at home or the quality isn’t what I would have gotten if I was there, but I think it is a start.