Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What did I get myself into?!?

So, just kicked off major project #2 today with ANOTHER group of kids. What on Earth was I thinking? (Ha.... what on EARTH.... I launched a project about other planets today!) My stress level: 11.5. WHat did I get myself into?! I haven't even finished one project successfully (though we are successfully through 40% of it!), and I start another one.... with an even LARGER group of kids.

Okay, so let's calm down here for a minute.... I've been trained. I've got resources. I've got a great support team. Stress Level: 9.0 getting better.

Update on Cyrano: Students are having a hard time turning things in. I've determined that with mastery-based grading, students don't feel the pressure to turn in the work on time. They say "oh I can do it again" or "what will happen if I don't?" There is a severe lack of intrinsic motivation. This is incredibly frustrating in general, but even more so because I spent time helping them to make connections to the book so that it would feel more relevant to them. Isn't that what PBL is all about? Teaching students how to take their interests and learn how to master 21st Century skills in a productive work-simulated environment? I thought so...

Anyway, back to the update. Students are working on analyzing the second act and completing a character analysis of Cyrano along with it. Many of the students have chosen to take on the artistic aspect with their character analysis and are creating collages or caricatures of Cyrano. I'm trying to emphasize with them that they simply cannot create large noses for Cyrano, because that does not fully describe him as a person. Walking around and discussing with students today: most of them don't have their playlists done, nor do they have their Act 2 Analysis done, and now they have the Character Analysis to do... A busy week a head for these hooligans, especially since we are starting Act 3 tomorrow!

On to the new project: Life on Planet X! I found the inspiration for this project from the book: Teaching Beyond the Test. If you are having trouble finding a way to jump into PBL, I strongly suggest this book. It has great ideas that are laid out for you including strategies for scaffolding projects and extending them to include other subject areas (perhaps have a colleague help you more fully develop some of these ideas, that's what I've done!). I had our lead Science teacher help me to better format this project for our students, as he hates using anything pre-made, and we had our kick-off today. We watched an awesome video clip and had a semi-productive discussion surrounding it. We are working this project with 30+ kids (instead of the usual 12-14), so we shall see how that impacts learning!

Students will be selecting their planets on Thursday and will then begin to develop a sustainable ecosystem on the planet: including creating organisms and defending their choices based on the environment of the planet. Students will be focusing on the study of  Energy Transfer and Ecosystems with this project. With any luck, we'll finish just before the Project Gala in December.

Stress Level: 7. Feeling like I can accomplish the day. Just need to remember to keep at it and that we aren't alone in our fight to reform education.