Saturday, 16 November 2013

While Walking to Work the Other Day...

First off I know... I am really bad at blogging on a regular basis! Need to be in the mood I guess. Anyway...

I was walking to work on a beautiful sunny Melbourne day last Friday and as I usually do, I was thinking about what lessons I had planned. Periods 1 and 2 were Reading Groups where the students were reading plays to focus on intonation and fluency, and periods 3 and 4 were Science (infused with writing) where my homeroom group would finish a recount on a science excursion they had on Tuesday. Sounded good. Easy day. BUT WAIT! Was that going to be an inspiring day? Was it really engaging? And the biggest question of all I kept thinking, "what value would these lessons have in the long run?"

I was satisfied with my Reading Groups lesson plan... the students were excited about the plays, it would be engaging, and while most of them were preparing to present, I could follow up on some assessments on students that had been away on holidays or ill. Reports are coming up and I needed to get all of it done, which I did! My idea of my Writing class finishing up their recount on an excursion didn't sit well though. I felt like it would be boring. I thought to myself, "would I even want to do this?"

This next bit is just a rant so skip ahead if you want...
FACT: all of my students know how to print and most can join write (aka cursive in North America).  Neatness on the other hand varies greatly. On a side note, who has neat handwriting by the time they finish uni? By that time, we can all write neat if we really want to. Usually we write a bit sloppy because note taking needs to be quick, and no one submits written essays or stories anymore. So when students in my class need to handwrite work, I don't fuss greatly over the neatness as long as it's legible because it hinders their ability to write me the story which is the main focus of the class. Handwriting neatness and join writing is ultimately focused in the, "Handwriting Lesson."

I heard the other day that riding a horse was a part of school curriculum way back in the day but that it's not anymore because it's not necessary. As schools increasingly become digital, I think handwriting will go out the window. Yes we will teach them how to do it, but after a few years in primary they will be typing everything up. I felt like asking my students to handwrite a recount was neither engaging nor efficiently a learning task that would support them greatly in the long run.

So here's what I did. I got my hands on the class set of laptops, had the students login to their google apps for Ed account, got them to create a google doc and share it with me, entitled: [Student's name]'s Science Recount. They loved it! They became so excited to type up their work from scratch rather than write it. Neatness and legibility was not an issue anymore, spelling became less of an issue when I showed students how to highlight and check their it using google, they could login later and finish it up if needed (even from home) and I felt like having them type it up was more realistic since that's what people do these days! I feel that we need to remember we are preparing students for the future. To top it off, students loved how I could sit at my desk while editing and commenting on their work as they were also typing it up. Sending comments like, "[Insert student's name] that's a great first paragraph, don't forget your capitals though," only to see them turn around with a huge grin because they thought it was so cool I could do that.

Most of all, it satisfied those questions I had in my head while walking to work that day. It was engaging, it motivated every student, it focused on an equally (if not more) important life skill, and it enhanced their digital citizenship (sharing docs online, real time teacher editing, using an online word processor, spell checking work etc...).

It can be hard to make every single lesson engaging to students all the time, but we can't get stuck in conventional methods for too long. We need to reflect, innovate, improve, and inspire.

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