Pushing students to engagement

I strongly believe in skills – even when assessing outcomes, I feel the most important part of the curriculum is still the skills and front matter of the document. The knowledge piece (student learning outcomes) comes from the skills and assessment of these skills through out the process. By grasping the skills, the students gain the  knowledge component as they progress through the project/ inquiry process/ learning task.

If we want students to buy into to these tasks so that we can assess them, my job is to facilitate meaningful and creative ways for them to learn and apply these skills that show their understanding and knowledge of the topic.

One of my favourite activities is called a Q-Focus. It introduces a concept that allows the students to develop questions about a statement, relating to that topic. Last year, my students really struggled with this one, but I decided to try it again this year, in the first week of school with my students about Canada and the role it plays in our lives. This is leading into how Canada’s identity shapes our lives and how we (and our families) have helped shape a Canadian identity.

Imagine a world without Canada… What questions would you have?

qfocus brainstorm

Imagine a World Without Canada…

The students were a little hesitant as to what I wanted from them at first but once I added my own 3 questions, the board started to fill. The picture is only at the end of the first day. By the end of the week, I had no more whitespace on my board. It was amazing to see! The kids love adding to it as well.

Today we started talking about asking powerful questions. I had to give them the criteria this year – mind you we are only at week 2 and I did less lead-up activities, however with the criteria of “Open-ended, engaging, on-topic and respectful”, we interviewed a student who played the role of Santa Claus. Hilarious answers but we started to learn what an open-ended and engaging question was in comparison to a simple question. The students then were given a chance to interview me again. They were given time at the beginning of the class to interview myself. Next up is coming up with powerful questions to interview a classmate, followed by watching an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ to find out what kinds of questions the person could have asked. This will lead up to finding out our own family histories.

Maybe I’ll figure out an engaging way to teach sentence structure because I can’t figure out how to make Subjects and Predicates interesting – even when doing a whole lesson talking like Yoda to have them correct me. The thing about not so engaging ways of teaching, it really shows me the value of spending a little bit of extra time to come up with a creative way to learn.

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Questions to reflect upon

Am I engaging students with new and innovative approaches?
Am I a life long learner, open to the views and feedback of others?
Am I a risk taker, willing to move out of their comfort zone?
Am I tech savvy and able to integrate technology?
Am I they skilled at differentiating instruction?
Have I flattened the walls of my classroom?
Do I use ongoing formative assessment as part of student learning?
Do my students have choice in how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning?
Is my classroom environment flexible and student centred?