Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 1

Two classes were introduced to the Smartest Generation Project today. Both classes listened to and read (think-aloud) the Overview and General Directions. Not a peep. No boo's, but also no signs of interest. I had put on the board 8 large pieces of poster paper, numbered 1-8. "When you have an idea," I said, "write it on a piece of poster paper and sign your name." I allowed 15 minutes for this.

The clock ticked in silence. Finally, one brave soul stood up and wrote an idea on the board. Another followed. By the end of the class, there were three good ideas, the first boy and erased his idea and joined the 2nd idea, and three girls decided to work together on the 3rd topic.

In the next class, I met the same silence, but it did not last as long. I added to my intro the teacher-step of offering to work through a possible topic orally - from general, to specific, to problem statement, to possible solutions. This was quickly done (drunk driving by underage drivers in Maine). Within 10 minutes there were three more good ideas on the board, two ideas added to the online Topic Ideas list, and several active discussions about what makes a good group, possible topics, and how it would be to work entirely within a wiki.

My students are intrigued, but also a little scared. It is interesting to me that:
  1. They are interested (it helped that I could hold up The Dumbest Generation, with a promise to read most of it this weekend);
  2. They are somewhat distrustful of the process, especially the thought of working outside of their own Core class;
  3. Their first impulse was not to find a good topic, but to gather 'round a strong group of friends (we talked about this);
  4. Several students surprised me with their instant understanding of the process - quiet kids and not the top students. What are they bringing to this learning strategy that other students lack? I will be watching these guys.
Not a bad start. I did make some teacher-level decisions:
  1. Went back over the directions and tried to clarify the steps, the timeline, and the goals at each step. This is more than I wanted to do, but today is the 1st practice for most of these kids.
  2. I told the kids that I would not require a full bibliography, just links in parenthesis - ARGH! it hurts the Librarian in me, but I think it is more wikish.
By the end of Day 2, we should be seeing some groups well into the decision-making process.

Oh, and in the classrooms, I will sitting group members as far apart as possible... Why? Read the directions.

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