Much inquiry has been taking place this week, and I have truly enjoyed being in the middle of it all! Biography projects continue full-force in our seventh grade intervention classes while our eighth graders are all working on a social history project for social studies. I've had the privelage of being part of both projects in planning and support for our struggling readers, and what I am finding is that our kiddos need to be doing more inquiry-based learning.
Students working on the biography projects are finishing up their books this week. One requirement for the project was to read a biography from cover to cover. To keep our students engaged and give them purpose for reading, we had them create Q-Charts last week. The next step in this process was engaged reading. Students kept their Q-Charts on their desks as they began reading. They chose their sticky notes (small, medium, large and color), and their task was to find answers to questions and mark selections in the text that would help them to create their final project. On their assignment sheet, our language arts teacher had given specific requirements on what should be included (timeline, accomplishments, family history, etc.), so they were also keeping an eye out for this information as well. Between the Q-chart and the project requirements, students had good purpose for their reading. One of the foundational principals of Project CRISS is the ability to set purpose for a task, so we did. And the sticky notes began . . .
Some have completed their reading and are beginning to organize their ideas on their notes sheet. Again, our struggling readers showed so much metacognitive ability, that they were able to choose (without being prompted) how to get this information into their notes sheets. Some took the information out and wrote it on their sheets and then put the sticky notes in a big pile. Others pulled the sticky notes right off the book and stuck them onto the page where the answers belonged! Call this lazy, but I call this a great way to save time! Still others did a combination of both - using sticky notes and filling in information where they felt they were lacking.
From here, students had to make a choice of 8 different possible final products ranging from writing a song parody to creating a power point to performing an interview to creating a two-page book spread where all information from the research is presented in some way.
Our big challenge in the final projects has been trying to steer our kiddos away from Power Point presentations or creating a Power Point presentation that is actually used the way it was designed - as a visual supplement for a presentation. Most of our students went right to Power Point because it was easy for them and they were familiar with it, regardless of their learning style. Although slide show presentations are an important skill to learn, we are seeing that a little more direction in how the slide show should be used would be more appropriate. What we are now having to do is one-on-one instruction on the purpose of Power Point.
Even more exciting is our idea for next year - the idea that perhaps students could create a metacognitive journey slide show as a report of how they created their project. So Power Point will be used, but as a way of showing the class what they did as they journeyed through the biography project and how it worked or didn't work, what they would do differently, and their thoughts and feelings about how it will impact them as learners in the future!
I recall doing writing assignments similar to this when I taught language arts a few years ago where students were expected to write their last paragraph in a reading response about their metacognitive journey. I got this idea from Young Adult Literature in the Classroom: Reading It, Teaching It, Loving It by Joan B. Elliot and Mary M Dupuis. Project CRISS calls for students to be metacognitive in their learning in order to become independent, and making it an expectation was eye-opening for me as a teacher. My kiddos struggled with it! In a recent conversation with our seventh grade intervention teacher, our focus is shifting to process, but kids are stuck in product-mode. We need them to be more process-oriented because Common Core is demanding skills from these information-overloaded children. Being in the education field for sixteen years, I struggle with process vs. product myself, but I'm learning right along with our kids, and I have to say - I'm having fun!