That title of this post is no joke (pardon the semi-pun) – it’s legit! I had the biggest fail with my Year 7 class yesterday and it made me laugh so hard that I cried. It also taught me a lesson or three!
OK, so below is a copy of my current Year 7 project. I’m super hyped about it because I think it’s one of the first times that I’ve designed a project where innovation is central. Anyway, the gist of the project is that students need to design a new type of text that teenagers will want to read. In order to get to the design stage, students need to do some inquiry into previous innovations in texts that have been successful. I thought a great way to start them off would be a simple team research task and presentation on the history of reading. Each team gets a different time period (e.g. the 17th century) and does some research about the reading innovations in that era which were successful.
I thought that I would help my students out with their research by finding some good webpages they could read – they’re a mixed bunch of 12 and 13 year olds and I didn’t want the activity to take more than two lessons. So, I did a bit of a google search and I stumbled upon a really awesome site – the history of reading! It even had separate pages for different eras of reading. How cool! So, I created a document directing each team to the appropriate page of the website, explained the task to them, gave them all laptops and let them get on with it. You can see the document that I gave them below.
During the lesson, some students started complaining that it was too hard and that the information didn’t make sense. I went over and tried to reassure them that it was a pretty straight-forward task, they just needed to summarise the information into a few key points. They kept on working. Another team asked for help – they couldn’t understand what the text on the page had to do with reading and books. I had a look and noticed that the first sentence didn’t make sense – and the punctuation was terrible … they had spelled reading with a capital R for starters – shocker! I started thinking that I had selected a dodgy site and told the kids it was just a typo. Let me confess something here, I maybe didn’t actually read the information on the pages that I directed my students to before I gave it to them. I just saw the heading and then copy and pasted the website to the document. Oops!
Anyway, that lesson they didn’t manage to finish their research, so I said I would give them the first half of the next lesson to complete it and then they would present to the class. During the next lesson, students continued to complain. Finally I sat down with one group and read through the whole page they had been assigned. It also had reading with a capital R! And that’s when it hit me … I had found a website on the history of the English town Reading … oops! It wasn’t about ‘reading’ at all!! Let’s just say when that penny dropped in class, I was mildly hysterical with laughter. My students were looking at me funny. I had to ‘fess up the truth – I had been a lazy teacher and set a terrible research task! Of course, as I tried to explain it to my students, they didn’t fully understand since they don’t know about the town Reading (which is pronounced differently to the word reading, which I think just confused them more). Ultimately I told them to just use google and find what they could on their given era.
They ended up doing a wonderful job with their research – well, wonderful considering that they has ten minutes to research and create a PPT and a 3 question quiz. As they presented (well into lunch by this time, what a mean teacher I am!), I was laughing like an idiot at the cute little typos on their slides … not to be mean, I was totally being nice and they were laughing with me. It was actually a really enjoyable lesson in the end and I think it helped our relationship develop even more.
Anyway, that’s my funny story about my epic fail. What did I learn?
1. Don’t try to baby students by giving them the websites to search for information. They need to develop the skills to use google confidently on their own.
2. Listen to your students’ concerns and don’t act superior … often they are genuine concerns that need to be addressed.
3. If you are going to set specific webpages for students to search for information (and let’s face it, sometimes you need to), then make sure you read it beforehand … otherwise you can look like a first-class fool in front of your students and totally waste their time!