Have you ever spent a great deal of time researching and crafting the perfect project – paying attention to every last detail, planing for every possible contingency, only to have it flop when you try it with your class? Well, the opposite of that happened to me this week. I threw together something simple at the last minute and it totally rocked! Jen Wagner would be proud. Here’s what happened…
Our 4th grade teacher approached me that morning to let me know that they were going to be studying the Pony Express. She asked if I had any ideas for an activity to get them ready. I told her I would work on it. Did I? No. So as the class walked in the door, there I was scrambling to come up with something. I decided to have the kids log into Discovery Streaming using their student accounts, search for “Pony Express”, and find out whatever they could about it.
While they were working I scrambled on to Wallwisher.com, quickly built a wall, calling it “Facts about the Pony Express”, and dropped a link to it in their class folder. After giving them some time to research I had them open the link and start adding facts to the wall. As they went back and fourth between Discovery and Wallwisher I pointed out interesting facts, facts that were repeated, and encouraged them come up with something that no one else has posted.
“I don’t see anything on the wall explaining why the pony express ended.” I said.
“I’m on it.” Came a response from the student on computer #15.
The kids were engaged, focused on the activity, and excited to see the information on the wall grow as they worked together with their classmates.
After school that day, the teacher came back to me saying that as a result of this activity her students had learned all the material they needed to know about the pony express, and then some. “I don’t know if I need to even bother using the lesson I had planned for class.” she shared.
It’s kind of embarrassing when something this easy goes so well. What was it about this activity that worked? I think maybe it’s because this lesson put the students in charge of their learning. It wasn’t about the amazing lesson or projects I put together. It wasn’t about listening to the teacher share everything students need to know about the pony express. It was about them. They were doing the research. They were working together to share what they know.
Will the success of this last minute lesson encourage me to procrastinate even more? Am I going to give up working, researching, and planning amazing lessons? I hope not. Instead I hope that the lessons and project I do design allow students to have a bigger role and responsibility in their learning, and also allow them to work together and share what they learn with each other. More them, less me.