The amazing @tersonya (Sonya Terborg) shared an incredible tool on Twitter the other day that I think a lot of readers of this blog will like. It is called, “The Unit Planning Game.” Based on the 17 Global Goals adopted by UN delegates in 2015, “The Unit Planning Game” will help educators and independent learners develop a framework for a project based on interest.
Users are first directed to choose from one of the 17 goals. For example, I chose, “Gender Equality.” Next up is the chance to select a “Solutions” card. Finally, three Standards cards can be designated. (Currently, the standards are fairly generic, in the areas of reading, writing, and math.)
After all of the choices have been made, the user clicks on, “Generate Unit Plan,” and a customized three-stage unit will appear. It includes an Essential Question (for my example, the question was, “How might we change perception to make things more equal for boys and girls?”), potential performance assessments, and links to resources.
“The Unit Planning Game” is provided by Participate, and you can get even more ideas from its Project Based Learning page titled, “Teach the Global Goals.”
Just to clarify, “It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a presentation I saw at TCEA this year; I’m not making any kind of commentary on the people attending the conference 😉 In fact, I was so blown away by the incredible sessions I was able to see over the course of my three days in Austin that I tweeted something about how TCEA reaffirms my belief that there are so many unbelievably passionate, gifted teachers in our world working to improve education each and every day.
“It’s a Zoo Out There,” was a TCEA presentation by Dina Estes and Kerry Woods from Lewisville ISD in Texas. They teach a multiage K/1 class, and have done this particular project based learning unit for a few years. The students research animals, draw pictures, and use digital tools to record information to present. Then, they create a virtual zoo in the hallway to display what they have learned. Zoo visitors can scan QR codes to watch and listen to the students present. The zoo looks different each year because these awesome teachers allow the students to plan it. One group wanted to group the animals by habitats, and other groups had their own ideas. No matter what, the display is open to the rest of the school to visit – giving the students a genuine audience for their hard work.
Anyone who balks at having students this age do research, participate in project based learning, or make use of technology needs to look at this presentation. The teachers provided tools, including a timeline, that show how all of these things can be done successfully.
Thanks to teachers like these, hopefully even more educators will be inspired to try this project!
An article I wrote called, “25 Creative Ways to Incorporate More Project Based Learning in the Classroom” has just been published. There are lots of great resources – even if you aren’t ready to try PBL quite yet. You can check it out here.
I found this video originally on Upworthy. It is so exciting to see the students’ enthusiasm as they work the real-world problem inspired by a train puzzle their teacher found at the store. The teacher, Justin Solonynka, truly knows how to engage the minds of his 7th grade students!
You can see the sequel to the video here. The same students, a year later, receive a slightly more challenging problem.
I love seeing the collaboration and listening to the thinking of the students!
“It was never really about the answer. It was about the process,” says Justin Solonynka in the second video.
The students came up with some questions. We are using a tool called Flipgrid to collect video responses to the questions. (If this works, I will publish a post about this unique tool next week!) The reason we are asking administrators to respond rather than other students is partly due to the privacy concerns with video and also because we would like a different perspective.
Here’s how you can help:
Easiest way – Send the link to this post to any elementary school administrator you know.
Even better – If you are an administrator, click on one or both of the links below, and submit your video answers to all of the questions on that grid. The links should also work on mobile devices, so if you want to actually show your cafeteria (without students) that would be awesome. And send this post to any other administrators you think may be willing to give us a hand.
Best – If you are an administrator, click on both links below, and and submit your video answers to all of the questions on both grids. The links should also work on mobile devices, so if you want to actually show your cafeteria (without students) that would be awesome. And send this post to any other administrators you think may be willing to give us a hand.
When I introduced Genius Hour to my 3rd graders this year, they were really excited about creating “missions” about anything that interested them. The week after they set their goals for their projects, they came into class and I announced that we were going to switch gears. We have been working on a unit on Systems Thinking, and I had a new idea to actually apply that unit to a real life problem in a real-life system – our school.
“What do you think are some problems around our school?” I asked them. They brainstormed a list.
(There are 4 students in my 3rd grade GT class, by the way. I’m telling you this for a couple of reasons: so you won’t think that I’m an extremely brave teacher for trying this experiment and so you will realize that my “class” probably needed to get some more perspectives on this question.)
“Do you think we should get some other opinions?” I asked the students. They agreed that might be a good idea. So, I showed them how to make a Google Form to use to survey the school, and we sent it to the staff to share with the students.
This week, we took a look at the summary of results. Almost half of the respondents had agreed that the biggest problem at our school is the noise in the cafeteria. The two girls in my class decided to take that on for their Genius Hour project. The two boys chose to work on the problem of garbage on the cafeteria floor.
One of the boys had either misunderstood our discussion before Spring break or was so enthusiastic about it that he decided to create a solution before we even chose our problems. He came to class yesterday with a game he had designed in Gamestar Mechanic to teach kids why leaving food on the floor was not a good idea.
“So, do you think the reason they are doing that is because they just need to be educated about the consequences?” I asked him. He nodded.
We had just finished reading a chapter of Billibonk and the Big Itch, where the main character learns the importance of getting to the root of a problem so you’re not just treating the symptom. I asked the students to use the method that Frankl suggests to Billibonk in the story – to keep asking, “Why?” Frankl recommends doing this 5 times, or until you just can’t do it anymore.
Through a series of “Why’s” the girls decided that the reason for the noise in the cafeteria is related to people talking loudly for attention.
The boys came to two different conclusions about why there is so much garbage on the cafeteria floor. One of them ended up believing it is due to disrespect for the adults in the room, and one of them feels that it is actually due to a lack of self-confidence. The boy who designed the Gamestar Mechanic solution realized that this was not going to solve the problem he had just identified. Of course, he is still determined to use Gamestar Mechanic to fix it 🙂
I have absolutely no idea where this is going next. Now that the students have done their best to identify the causes of the problems, they are going to use some other Systems Thinking concepts to try to develop solutions. This is a grand experiment for all of us!
While I was writing this post, I was attempting to multi-task, and listening to one of the videos from yesterday’s Learning Creative Learning class. During the video, Mitch Resnick stated how important he believes it is to “solve problems in context of a meaningful project that you’re working on.” That is exactly what we are attempting to do, so I hope that it is a good learning experience, no matter the results.