(15) See the Obvious

This morning I decided I have got to get my writing done early since I have a full day, then a dinner and show date tonight with my husband. I am thinking out loud again and am not 100% sure where I am going. I haven’t had a chance to journal yet this morning, and need to be thinking about getting to work soon.

With that in mind, I took out my pack of cards called Creative Whack Pack, and I pulled a card. This one said “see the obvious.”  The Creative Whack Pack gives ways to apply creative thinking. So, see the obvious.  Here goes:

Last week I started the Titanic project with my students. They were each assigned a passenger on the Titanic, and have to research that person, then write a journal representing a few days of his or her life, including the night of the Titanic sinking. I distributed passengers across all class levels, as well as some who lived and some who died. Keep in mind that my students are all what as known as intensive readers. Their reading ability ranges from kindergarten to 6th grade. They are 7th graders –many with special education designations–one who is monolingual. I have asked them to engage in a project that requires historical fiction writing. The result of this assignment has been a beautiful surprise.

Nearly every single student has embraced this project–some immediately, some took a day or two. As we have worked through our project workshops, students have argued over class status, found ways to have their passengers connect, and decided on creative ways to present their information. I have some of the students in an intervention class period three days a week. They beg to work on this project. Some of these students have shown zero engagement in the past. They do as little as possible, often shutting down or rushing through the assignment. I have noticed changes in work habits, cooperation among known enemies, and have had several students come in with research they’ve done at home. Lots of research.

It is so obvious to me that project-based learning is the way to go.  Last year I had more advanced students who knew how to “do school.”  I never witnessed them caring about anything to the point they researched on their own or took creative risks.  Most kids in intensive classes are never given a rich curriculum and a chance to engage fully in a project. They are led through boring textbooks with unimaginative writing and workbooks that barely ask anything of them  I tried to use the materials given at the beginning of the year. I witnessed my students dying inside. No more. It is obvious to me that the “fixed answer” of the low level textbook is not the answer.  Aliveness in the classroom is.

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