Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Unit Structure: What Will This Year Look Like

Or what one unit this year will look like...

I’ve written previously about my struggles with last year’s new structures in my class. In short, my class was too prescriptive and a bit of the richness of wrestling with primary source documents together was lost when some of that wrestling was done asynchronously.

There were some good things, though, that came out of last year’s experiments. Things that I’m keeping for this year. I’m still done with homework. No more. Done. Period. No homework is staying. I also had elements of my class running synchronously last year. In these ‘the whole class together’ times, we worked together on bigger historical thinking activities: we did Socratic Seminars, inquiries, and structured academic controversies. The richness of doing these activities synchronously isn’t something I want to lose. And I won’t.

What’s new this year? 1:1 Chromebooks. A student teacher. No tests. More student-centered. This is my put up or shut up year. What do I believe education should be about? Well, why doesn’t my class reflect that? This is that year that my class jumps way closer to my beliefs about what education could - and should - be about.

Students working UNDER desks. Because, well, why not?
So, now that I’ve just about finished up my first content unit of the year, what did the content part of class look like? (The content part of class as opposed to the historical thinking part or the writing part.) We started the Russian Revolution unit crowd-sourcing knowledge about big areas of the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s rise to and use of power. I’ve blogged about this here. After crowd-sourcing this information, students went back over the documents their classmates created and came up with their own inquiry questions to research that were based within the Russian Revolution. Check out the directions my students went through to do this here.

Students had a couple weeks to go out and do research. Presentations started today for them. They had to present their learning in 3-4 minutes then answer questions from their classmates. I’m fascinated to see how things unfold.

Really though I’m excited to hear from my students about their experience in this unit. Generally history classes are about a mile wide and inch deep - people focus on breadth of content coverage. Not this unit. This unit asks my kids to be an inch wide and some level of deep - maybe not a mile, but for some students close to that. I’m curious to see how this (somewhat militant) push towards student-centeredness sits with my kids. I’m excited to hear their feedback. I’m excited to recount my failures with them and explain how I’m going to learn from these failures and make the next unit better.

I’m excited to #FailForward!