Thursday, January 16, 2014

Olympics Project is taking off!

Our Olympics project is off to a strong start! Yesterday morning, I had planned a "normal" morning of mini-lessons, Daily 5 English Language Arts, guided reading groups and student conferencing.   As we gathered at the carpet for our first mini-lesson, one of my students announced that he "had to get something" and quickly returned with a note paper full of information about the Olympics.  The student explained that he had talked to his Dad about the Olympics and found out lots of facts for our research.  I was so excited that a student (and his family) had taken ownership of the project so quickly!  I decided that my plan for the morning might not be the best plan given the great learning opportunity that had just come up, so I asked my students to vote on whether they felt we should focus on Olympic mini-lessons for the morning.  Of course, they were excited to dive into this new information, so nearly all students voted to change our morning plans.  (Being flexible with my plan for the day is an important thing I've learned to do, which I think makes me a better teacher.) 

So instead of delivering my carefully planned lesson (intended to launch our text type study on persuasive texts), I went with the students' momentum and excitement.  I put my plan away for another day and delved into the Olympics information that they were so excited to work with!  We read through the information and students decided the facts should be shared as part of our Olympics inquiry. 

I'm not sure how the topic came up, but we decided that students should have their own blog account to post from so that it shows THEY are posting rather than ME.  I told the students that we'd make a blog account for the class, but then stopped when I realized they didn't have an email address to use.  As I started to explain to my class why our plan wouldn't work, they simply said "let's get our own email account".  (Sometimes they are faster problem solvers than I am!)  With that, we were rolling again.  After creating an email address and blogging account, my students are officially guest bloggers on this blog and the Little Hands Extended blog I write with Mrs. Caldwell. 

A group of students worked together to type their first blog post, using the information their classmate brought.  They insisted on working on it at every opportunity, but didn't quite get finished.  I reassured them that they could continue their work, so they were eager to get started this morning!  Another student had gone home last night and worked with her family to find out more about the Olympics, so she also started her own blog post today.  I am really proud of these contributions to the blog because they demonstrate so many positive qualities in my students and their families: engagement in learning, teamwork, motivation to learn, ownership of learning, shared responsibility (just to name a few!)

I think these initial experiences demonstrate the value of project based learning (again!) and also illustrate the supportive community surrounding us.  Thank you so much to the families and community members that support the young learners in my class!  These kids are learning so much and developing so many important skills and values.  Your contributions are very important! 

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