It’s the time of year to help students pinpoint areas of interest and encourage them to explore those further.
As the year comes to a close, student motivation can start to slip. When the weather warms up, it’s okay to admit that some students may be counting down the days until their summer vacations start. Truthfully, you might be too! Teaching is a double-edged sword: it’s rewarding, yet emotionally and physically exhausting.
It can be tempting to become more passive as things wrap up, especially when many of us have been preparing students all year to demonstrate what they’ve learned on cumulative standardized tests or internal exams. However, when I was in the classroom, I took another approach to end the year strong. I used the last weeks of school to encourage students to reflect and dive deeper into a topic from earlier in the year, which sent students into summer feeling empowered by everything they were able accomplish. Students spent the last part of the year working on projects to highlight what they learned and share why it excited them.
An easy way to give students a level of ownership is by using Kiddom’s Planner for curriculum development. The playlist feature in Planner lets you break projects into manageable pieces for students to complete. First, students begin by choosing the format in which they want to showcase what they have learned. Based on student choice, teachers can assign them the most relevant project outline. By using individualized resources and feedback shared through Google Drive and Kiddom’s communication tools, students will be able to produce projects that reflect their own development and passions, and take critical reflection and analysis tools with them onto their next course or grade.
Use Kiddom’s Planner to build personalized playlists for students to explore topics of interest.
In my biology class, there was a broad unit that covered nutrition. I had one student who, in his words, was allergic to vegetables, saying they made his “taste buds sad.” As we approached the final project, he wanted to build a greenhouse to grow flowers for his mom. I took this opportunity to link multiple units together and tied the skills he was passionate about developing to nutrition by supplying him with lettuce and radishes to plant. I had never seen him so excited to learn and build! This student was chronically late throughout the year and yet, for this project, he was coming in after school and at lunch! When his plants began to grow, his eyes lit up. The moment we harvested his first radish, I didn’t even have to ask him if he was going to try it. He rinsed it off and popped it in his mouth; the look of disgust was priceless, and could only have been gained through this personal exploration. While he left for the summer still hating vegetables, he was ecstatic with the knowledge that he could build a structure and grow plants.
As a teacher, shifting ownership of learning to students through final projects gives me time to reflect and learn from my students. I was able to identify which lessons truly “stuck” and which may have missed the mark. Analyzing which topics students choose to focus their projects on helped identify strengths in my curriculum. What does this tell me about the units I have taught? Where do I need to focus more next year and what lessons were particularly effective? I used the students’ interests to help me reflect on lessons that they remembered, and which ones had faded by June. Kiddom’s standards reports, alongside the assignment based reports, lets teachers compare student interest to their mastery of those skills. Not only can we see what our students enjoyed learning but how that engagement affects their mastery of a standard. With these data points I can make notes for next year detailing the most effective lessons for bringing students to mastery. Setting aside time to learn from past experiences is an important part of teaching that can easily get lost in the shuffle.
Standards-based reports allow you to infer interest by performance on specific skills.
We focus on students leaving the school year with something they can take away but we also need to find time for teachers to synthesize what they have learned during each school year. Kiddom gives teachers time to analyze their own development at the end of the year, letting them go into summer ready to take what they have learned and build a stronger foundation for the coming year.
Guest Post by: Liz E.