Crosswalk

“What are those white lines anyway?”??

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Pause…

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Years ago, on a field trip, the class stopped at a park and walked across the street for ice cream. As I returned to the park with the last group of kids, walking through the crosswalk, one of my students turned to me and said, “Ms. Edwards, What are these white lines for anyway?”

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I knew then that although my sixth grade kids know all about hunting and fishing in our rural area, they have so much to learn about the rest of the world. I wrapped our requirements up in integrated projects, developing our language arts through science or social studies. At the time, classes were self-contained so our day focused on “workshops” of learning. We helped NASA scientists decide which planet to study with the Hubble Space Telescope. Sixth grade students “testing” at a second grade reading level were pouring over Encyclopedia Britannica for the evidence we needed. We learned about the stratosphere and the sun through other NASA collaborative projects. During the first Gulf War, we presented the “Nespelem Agreement” as an understanding of the issues of all sides. We researched local historical markers to add to the Signs of The Past project. Imagine the teamwork, collaboration, the reading, writing, and math, and the vocabulary that developed — before Web 2.0.

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Now our middle school configuration disseminates lessons in fifty minute segments. We are under great pressure to “meet objectives” and “pass the test.” We’ve eliminated most field trips and art. We focus on Grade Level Expectations. The language arts expectations are excellent, and the writing expectations focus on the writing process and six traits of writing. But I keep returning to that crosswalk, and all the worldly references our students many miss without time for conversation and at least virtual field trips.??

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This year my eighth grade students participated in the Eracism Project, a project run by Flat Classroom(tm) project founders, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay. During this period, once again, my students needed so much more information than we had time to investigate, but we dove in and did our best. It consumed our time, and we struggled with important concepts. But we knew what to do and what information we needed through conversation, research, and sharing. As in our past projects, the learning occurred through this social and cognitive process.?? In Twitter today, Karen Cator admits, “Learning is an incredibly social act.”

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Karencatorsociallearning

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I wonder when those in charge will realize the incredibly messy process educating is? Yes, we need objectives; but those objectives are learned and remembered within a context of our community, where conversation reveals needs of the objectives, but also needs that are more complex and real. But how will I know these personalized needs if all we focus on are discrete objectives? In projects, student don’t always learn the specific skills objectives at that time, but they do experience much more comprehensive concepts within a collaborative learning community. And that learning community is more valuable than mere objectives. We can walk through the crosswalk with our objectives, but that crosswalk is painted within a larger context of place of which the people more readily ask questions and ponder essential questions. They wonder how things connect and develop deeper understandings. I hope my students continue to ask clarifying questions, “What are these lines for anyway?”

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Play…

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How will I engage my students in a learning community again? I’ve joined a Problem/Project Based Learning (PBL) group in Classroom 2.0 .????In addition, some resources on PBL include:


PBL in Language Arts

Slide Show on PBL in Language Arts

http://www.edutopia.org/project-learning-overview-video

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checklists ??http://pblchecklist.4teachers.org/

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In my PLN, I’ve made connections to other middle school teachers who may also collaborate on projects. Finally, I’ve found a wonderful text on extending Literature Circles into Inquiry Circles: Comprehension and Collaboration Inquiry Circles in Action by Harvey Daniels, National-Louis University, Stephanie Harvey.??I’m especially interested in the “mini-inquiries” in Chapter Eight.??

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My summer is set for crossing back to projects to better engage students in a learning community.

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Any other suggestions? Other projects for the Language Arts classroom? Want to join us?

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Crosswalksm

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