Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So What Do Kids Want To Learn?

As a math and science teacher I often feel like I only get to know half a child. With a background in elementary education I miss reading kids’ stories and reflections and sharing their ideas about what they are reading. I got some small insight into what my students are thinking with this tweet from a student last week:
Social studies ? Those people are all dead. L.A? I speak English don’t I? Math? Calculators! BOOM!
It may have been tongue in cheek but still, it made me stop and think. If these things seem irrelevant to our kids how do we make them relevant? Secondly, what exactly do they want to learn about?
This year my teaching partner and I have been piloting a new class dubbed Sciracy-a blend of science and literacy. We have embarked on several projects with the aim of finding authentic and natural connections between the two subjects .We decided for the last few weeks of school we would open up this time for the kids to follow their curiosity .What topics are you interested in? What do you want to learn about? What questions do you have? Where do you want to travel on your personal learning journey?
We didn’t really have much more vision than that; we just threw it open to the kids to see what would happen. The direction was that they had to generate a “non-Googleable” question and answer it.  I suspected that some kids would dive right in while others would have no clue where to begin but I was wrong. They all had at least three topics they wanted to pursue and they set about initial research quite hungrily. After digging around for a while the kids naturally started to refine their thinking , honing their searches and discovering the areas that really motivated them to delve deeper.
Across the fifty four students the breadth of fascination is staggering. Some questions that have been developed so far include:
Can we launch our Golden Gnome (class mascot) into space?
Would a Tyrannosaurus Rex survive in the 21st Century?
Can we add composting to our recycling efforts in the school cafeteria?
What would it take to start a successful Football team at BCS?
How can we start a school radio station?

Was Merlin a scientist or a magician?

What will be the most sustainable materials to make clothes with in the next five years?
For fifth and sixth graders I find these questions impressive, but as their teacher I also feel overwhelmed about how to manage the diversity of inquiry and learning.George Mixon, a colleague, suggested I try the GROW model. GROW is an acronym for Goal-Current Reality-Options-Wrap-Up and provides a framework for me to play a coaching role to help my students learn new skills, solve problems and make informed decisions about their progress. The goal is to for my students to develop the skills and strategies that will enable them to drive their own learning journey.

I’m excited to see where this takes us all and I’m now ready to respond to my student's tweet.
Goals? Tell me where you want to go. Current Reality? Tell me where you’re at.  Options? Tell me what you can achieve. Wrap-up? Show me how you’re going to do it. BOOM!