“I’ve Never Been More Productive…”
Over the course of the year, I’ve been trying new things and always striving to give students more control over their learning. This semester I gave students a project that was open-ended yet had a clear SBG rubric. The projects are starting to come in and the work is impressive. This school year has been an incredible experience pushing my kids to new heights, giving them choice over their own learning but there has been one goal that that I had yet to achieve…that is until this week.
This week I no longer gave students a day-by-day schedule. I gave my students the videos and concepts I wanted them to learn and told them it must be achieved by May 29. No schedule, no specific timeline and they were to tell me when they were ready to assess. What happened next surprised me. One group of 6th grade boys pulled out their Chromebook, created a detailed calendar when they were all going to watch the videos do the classwork and the anticipated assessment date. They shared it with each other, their parents and myself. I was impressed.
The students were excited to create their own schedule. They wanted to achieve that end goal and they wanted to achieve it quickly. At the end of the class, a student exclaimed,
“I’ve never been more productive in a class period!”
Students came in today on day two and I had more kids farther ahead than I anticipated. Had I planned out the week, the assessment over last week’s material would have been given on Wednesday. Instead, I had half my class tell me today (Tuesday) that they were ready for the assessment. They were working so hard to understand the concepts and they were excited to be working faster. Why had I waited to do this? At the end of the day a student said to me, “Mr. Humphreys I want it to be like this next year.” Indeed it will be.
To extend student choice I asked my students to find a concept in math that they haven’t been taught, research it and make a second semester presentation on it. That was essentially all I told them. The projects are coming in and what I didn’t anticipate was how seamlessly these projects are impacting their everyday math work. Students are using the concepts learned in their project and applying it to their current math.
For example, my 7th graders are currently learning how to solve quadratic equations. In Algebra 1, students are taught that when they are solving equations they might receive “no real solution” as an answer as there is another realm of math that involves imaginary numbers but they don’t learn that concept until Algebra 2. Quite a few kids wanted to know more about imaginary numbers and after researching it, I am getting work and assessments in which students have catapulted their learning by no longer putting “no real solution” but actually solving the quadratic equations with imaginary numbers. They pushed themselves to understand how to delve deeper into the concept.
In addition students are now sharing their results with others and teaching it to their friends so they too can use these future concepts in their current work. By giving my students choice, they cater to their own needs and show a genuine interest in learning. Tonight I received an email back from a student after I had scored his project and he had done a phenomenal job. He replied,
“Thank you Mr. Humphreys. I enjoyed making it!”
They are learning and by their own choice, not mine. My students constantly impress me!