Starting big, then going small

I never would have thought that a Federal Election would take over the first month or so of school, but it did.  My grade 7 homeroom worked tirelessly on creating campaigns to engage their peers to vote for their party/local candidate.  Throughout the process, they were able to interact with members from CIVIX, the organization behind the Canada’s Student Vote, with Acadia University’s Political Science Department (thanks Dr. Biro), and of course, their debut into the media thanks to CBC’s Julie Ireton and her piece on engaging youth in the voting process.

Fast forward through the nitty gritty of the project and move to the reflective writing piece that I am currently in the process of providing feedback for each individual student.  I requested that my students do the following:

  • write about their views on the project
  • what the loved
  • what they would change
  • what they got out of it (if anything)
  • they could draft their ideas in a way that worked for them (sketch, google docs, spider web etc)

I am already done 15 of the 27 writing pieces and am impressed by the growth my students comment on in this learning process.  So far, each student has mentioned how nervous they were with such a ‘vague’ and large project.  They wanted to know ASAP about the expectations, success criteria, and how to get an A.  However, as they moved through the project and had 1:1 conversations about their individual and collaborative growth, they began to realize that the project would evolve organically and that success criteria, at least some of the specifics, would change according to the creativity of the group and their passion to achieve their best.

What my students have mentioned is understanding that it is not just about the mark, but it is about the learning process.  It is about the 6Cs and prepping themselves for what they call the ‘real world’ through collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking (the 4 they used they noted the most). They moved from being ‘spoon fed’ to critically thinking about their authentic project through ongoing student/lead learner (teacher) conversations.  By doing as such, students were truly put in the driving seat of their learning and recognized that they can take charge of the learning process with some guidance.

For those curious on how I evaluated my students on this mass project?  Not so simple but I ran a running log of conversations and small writing pieces that were connected to the French Curriculum expectations.  The overall collaborative project, as viewed in the document mentioned at the beginning of this post, saw students evaluating each other through learning skills.

I certainly would change parts of this project to better the needs of the learners in my classroom but alas, I would never take away the growth that open ended projects can have when on-going conversations can be had to truly differentiate and support each student in ways that work for them.  Besides, when a student writes this at the end of their reflection piece, you know something has gone right. studnet praise

(Can’t read French? Kiddo let’s me know that this is ‘probably the best project he has done in his life’ – pretty awesome to read.)

Yours in learning,

The Enthusiastic Learner

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