Mar 11, 2016

Engaging students in an Early America Blended/Discovery Learning Unit

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Goal:  Create a blended/discovery learning environment for students to engage in interactive lessons and activities while learning material and making connections between the past and present.

Look out students of the 21st century!  I decided it was time to think outside the box to get students more engaged. I needed all students answering questions and making connections, not the few who raised their hands. My classroom needed to be upgraded to a more blended and discovery experience. So, I did a little research to find programs that could get students more involved in their own learning.  

The first example I reviewed was a ThingLink board.  It allows for pictures and multiple tags which navigate to more information, video viewing  and/or listening to audio tracks. Clicking icons - what every student loves to do - would be a great place to start!  I decided it was going to be my first project of 2nd semester.  I set up several appointments with our Instructional Tech Coach, Amber O’Day.  I then reviewed the Social Studies curriculum guide and targets to begin gathering resources.  
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During our first meeting, I explained the Early American targets I wanted to address and we talked about the end result. I also indicated I wanted to start this unit by discussing leadership.  Amber listened and frantically  scribbled the ideas in a curriculum map on the whiteboard. The visual helped me really think about meeting the targets and how it would look before moving forward.  Once we had a plan in place, we started thinking about the technology to use. Our thought process was to have one location the students would use which would navigate out to all our resources, artifacts, assignments and formative/summative assessments.   Since we are a GAFE (Google Apps for Education) school, we were able to directly link my Google Classroom and students’ Google email and login.  This allowed easy access to many resources since they just used the Google + button to link to their Google accounts.

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Each President had his own board of icons (lessons) addressing the targets. For each idea, Amber researched the technology and practiced it in a mock classroom.  Below is a listing of different technologies we utilized during this project:   

  • Google Docs, PDF’s and other digital textual primary sources.
  • EdPuzzle, YouTube, CrashCourse and Discovery Education videos. I also made my own video on content specific material.
  • We used MP3’s, songs which rap about the topic and me reading a passage.
  • Pictures were used not only to guide students but also within videos and topic starters.
  • Interactive boards such as were used as formative assessments for students to create and demomstrative their own knowledge.

What did the students think?  After the second completed board, I asked them to complete a Google Form about their experience.  They were very satisfied with the activities and gave suggestions to add more interactive activities!  I also found during our mini-lesson discussions, more students than the ones who "always" raise their hand were involved and material was learned from their questions and discussions with each other.  

My recommendation: get an idea and collaborate with your instructional technology coach to create an interactive project that engages students and enhances their learning experience!

Martha Kindred - 7th Grade Social Studies

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