Today was an awesome day.

Today was such a great day. It was one of those days where you’re just like, “Yes, this is why I’m a teacher!” If you follow me on twitter (poor you) then you’ll know that I can be a bit of a negative nelly sometimes. I’m all about balance, so I will share with you my brilliant day.

It all started with Year 9. Before I even entered the classroom, I was gloating to my colleagues about how awesome my class is. The first five minutes of the lesson involved me talking about my new reading glasses (I don’t normally wear glasses) and laughing at myself as usual. It was only after my silliness that the new student was brought to my attention – oops! Guess he learned about his teacher pretty quickly, haha. Having an new student gave me the opportunity to test my students’ understanding of PBL. They passed the test with flying colors, happily explaining that a driving question guides their learning and keeps them focus during a project; that they work in teams to master important real-world skills and that they usually share their work with people outside of the classroom to make learning genuine.

Today was the day I introduced their new project. It’s such a cool project, I’m pretty excited about it too. The cool thing though is that they’re excited too! The driving question is action-oriented which means it’s more concrete than our last philosophical question. They straight-up started asking a thousand questions about the project which is just what I want … I just don’t give many/any answers. The project involves them connecting with Year 2 students via edmodo to generate ideas for their fantasy stories and my class were full of questions about the process of writing in collaboration with younger students. Some of my favourite questions related to reading ability of 8 year olds, how to write a story that caters for the interests of both genders and what the students’ prior experience of fantasy might be.

On the project outline I left an important space blank – the habits of mind and ISTE NETS to be addressed during the project. I gave my students a print off of all HOM and ISTE NETS. As I read through each list, students circled three HOM/NETS they felt they would need to master to succeed with the project. Then we went through everyone’s selections and negotiated which three most agreed upon to select. This was a really cool step in the project introduction that I’ve not done before – normally I pick them for students. It generated solid discussions about the project & what it required of the students skill wise. I’m going to post up the selected HOM/NETS on the wall so they can keep them visible & in mind. At the end of the lesson we created a list of fantasy texts they know, focusing on novels, films and video games. Yup, video games. There was a core group of students who were thrilled that we were valuing video games as a form. One student was like, ‘Miss, you mean I can bring Skyrim in and play it during class?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah.’ Haha. They get to select their own fantasy text to analyse and many were already getting amped about all the different games they could choose from. You can see their list of texts at the end of this post.

Year 8 was the period after lunch and usually they are pretty lively and unfocused. Today was project intro day for them as well … and this time it was a success! They were super excited about the project even if they were a bit anxious about the ‘presentation’ aspect of it. Intentionally I put a word in the driving question that I knew my students would not know – ‘auteur’. This generated curiosity straight away … they wanted to know what this thing was. I told them they had to find out, and if they did I’d give them a prize. Well, within 30 seconds as student had the answer – he’d used his phone to google it and I got him to read the definition out and I wrote it on the board. The class were pretty chuffed with their classmate was so smart to think of using his phone!

Once again, the project-outline stimulated some great questions from my students – they wanted to know so much, simply because they felt they needed to know it in order to complete the project. I love that part of PBL … students having ‘need to knows’ right from the get go. We even managed to have a pretty comprehensive discussion about semi-colons … based entirely on a student inquiry! As with Year 9, we went though the HOM and ISTE NETS – Year 8 chose differently to Year 9 which I think is great because their projects are different and this tells me that they were really thinking about what is needed to succeed. I ended the lesson by reading some of Tim Burton’s poetry and some of Roald Dhal’s poetry from Dirty Beasts. My students were fascinated by the darkness and quirkiness of Burton’s poetry … hooked ‘em already!

And Year 10 … well there are just cool kids. Yesterday was project launch day for them but today they were still buzzing about it. Their project is so awesome – it gives them complete creative and critical control. The driving question for the project as a whole is ‘What does it take to make it?’ and you can see their ideas in the image below this paragraph. This project is student voice & choice on steroids! We read through the extra project information and I told them that I was going to do the project as well – why not? I wanted to show them that whilst I think it is a really challenging project, that I am willing to give it a go. I’m going to write a story and try and get it published … I’ve got seven weeks, just like my students! My students have already come up with awesome driving questions for their ECP (English Composition Project): 1. Why people obsessed with reality television? 2. Is Jazz a dying genre? Great questions, huh?

I’ll share the project outlines and resources and stuff in the next couple of days … I’m excited about all three projects. I think that’s a record for me – being excited about three junior classes in Term 4. PBL must sure be something special if it can excite a teacher at this time of the year! ;)

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2 thoughts on “Today was an awesome day.

  1. This sort of thing, the excitement, is what makes PBL work IMHO. Having just come off a PBL project with my year 8 class I remember feeling the buzz. What is even cooler is that I hadn’t made the steps to do another so soon, but my year 8 students are already talking about their next assessment task (a tv news report) as a ‘project’ and so I am structuring the learning around what they need to know to do it well. This approach of giving the task first and then learning to complete it means they engage more and don’t wonder why we are learning something because they have the end goal in mind. I like how you got them involved in the HOM stuff, well done. My biggest project yet is set for the 2nd half of this term: my year 10 and I are going to design our English studies course for next year! Can’t wait. Imagine, students helping to design their learning!

    • Thanks Brendt … that sounds like an exciting and awesome project! I will pass on that idea to the teacher who is taking Studies next year – she may just have a go as well!

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