I found an old picture of my classroom and recreated portions for a Lemur bulletin board. I added the lemurs looking at the computer screen which now has a picture of fruit, including bananas, which lemurs eat and have obviously been eating them because they’ve left banana peels all over the classroom! How fun is that!
This picture brought back a flood of memories– the students work folders at the far right, books in the bookcases with novel sets and individuals, ready for students to choose at any time.
The silly box that says “no name, no grade” where I’d leave their work if I didn’t recognize the handwriting. The kids were really good at checking that box to resubmit their work.
Of course, most of our work and projects were created on computers, as you can see we were fortunate to have Mac laptops and desktops, one for each student. That pretty much eliminated the need for the “student name” box!
As I said, computers were for work and projects– the only games they “played” were those they coded themselves from various sites like code.org. Most of work involved collaborative inquiry in groups with Google Suite as the planning, organizing, creating. Even with students in the same classroom, peer review and planning online saved so much time and allowed for more concise and thorough projects.
Sitting side by side with their computers, students could discuss their plans, their work, their day’s focus and help each other along the way. My students could research specific topics and issues, bookmark and annotate, choose relevant information, and compose their analysis for projects to share with others.
The students understood copyright, image use, formatting. They knew to what form to use for the best presentation– slides, docs, spreadsheets/charts, video image– or a combination.
My principal said she was always amazed at how the students were always on task and always knew what their focus was, even the kids that gave other teachers trouble. She’d walk around and talk to the students about their work, and they’d show her how they started and proceeded and what they’d learned. Students did the same with parents at conference time; families engaged with the students’ learning.
Of course, they weren’t always on task– but my continuous feedback on their documents or as I walked around helped keep their focus. They also helped each other make decisions about their work flow and content. Technology helped take the tedium out, and made revision and choice a focus students appreciated; the work was real and relevant.
I miss the sound of student conversations, of checking with each other, of asking each other questions before they needed to ask the teacher. I miss the debates of what they would include, what was good enough, what needed more work. I miss the sound of fingers tapping as the students composed, and the sound of laughter while they shared their own “Slice of Life” compositions with each other. I miss the sound of “Mike knows how to do that,” and Mike hops up to share a computer skill he learned.
There are sounds I don’t miss, but I’m glad that, for the most part, my classroom honored students and their voices. I’m honored they accepted what I could offer for their learning, because I learned right along beside them and from them.
When students help plan their own projects with the umbrella of expectations to guide them, the classroom becomes a place of authentic learning and success.
That is true for online and in person learning, and teachers with that mindset probably found this year less difficult. However, this year is one for which all teachers must be honored for their perseverance in such difficult times, especially since most had not the training or technology for learning online. So, if you know a teacher, reach out and thank them.
Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart