Teachers and students may not necessarily agree about what they regard as fun.
One of my colleagues, for example, has a story about one time when she told her class, “Today we’re going to have some fun!”
Suspiciously, the students eyed her until one finally asked the question: “Your kind of fun or our kind of fun?”
Today I bring you a link to Making Learning Connected, a free massive open online course that I — as a teacher — think looks like fun. My students next year may differ, but I hope they will enjoy at least some of the projects I learn about and experiment with during this year’s MOOC. It’s sponsored for the second summer in a row by Educator Innovator and the National Writing Project.
Not only will I be participating, but the first Make Cycle for this summer popped up today in the group’s Google community, and I just posted mine. It’s a “How To” assignment. Community members are supposed to write a “How To” revealing something about who they are and what that they’re good at. Coincidentally, I just finished teaching a creative writing class that included a series of “How To” assignments, so I wrote my “How To” about that:
How to Be a Novice Teacher Who Assigns “How To” Writing Assignments to Her Students
- Realize that a student-led class will keep everyone more engaged than if I’m standing up in front of the class teaching. “Yada-yada-yada … “
- Ask a student who needs encouragement in the class to demonstrate something she loves doing, so the others can write about it.
- Make arrangements with the art teacher for that student to demonstrate her skills in melting and casting pewter for jewelry making.
- Rejoice as the students appear more engaged than they have been for any other assignment this spring.
- Experience a momentary sense of frustration while waiting for the pewter to melt as all the students (including the girl doing the demonstration) get out their cell phones to check text messages.
- Listen to the students excitedly sharing their “How Tos” and the girl leading the class proudly providing solid critique. (What do they need me for? Oh, yeah. To set the whole thing up.)
- Ask another student to demonstrate his skills and lead the class.
- Increase expectations by requiring students to write in narrative, not just bullet points.
- Ask another student to lead the class.
- Increase expectations by requiring students to include figurative language.
- That was a struggle. Let’s try again …
- Better. The figurative language is still awkward, but they seem proud of their efforts, emphasizing the figurative language while reading aloud and looking to me for approval. I’ll take that. For now.
- Next time require students to include a subplot … a story within the “How To.”
- Introduce voting. Students decide who wrote the most effective “How To” … and the most entertaining.
- Watch the room come alive as students increase their writing efforts and vie for the approval of their peers. (Why do they need me, again? Oh, yeah. To set the whole thing up.)
- Ask a student who I know is up for a challenge to (without incriminating himself) explain “How to do something you’re not supposed to do.”
- Listen in amazement as he improvises “How to speed without getting caught.” (All of these students are about the age when they’re learning to drive and earning their first driving licenses.)
- Continue listening in amazement as students – intrigued by the assignment and impressed by his example – respond to the challenge with the best writing they’ve done all semester.
- Listen in even greater amazement as the girl with the quietest voice (both in speaking and in writing) wows the class with her composition, “How to get to party you’re not supposed to go to” and wins that week’s student award for Most Accurate How To.
- Feel disappointment that the semester is almost over, because the students are finally beginning to really write.
- Plan to include “How To” writing assignments in next fall’s Creative Writing class, for sure.
If you’re a teacher looking for something fun (okay, I know it’s a relative term) to do this summer, it’s not too late. You can sign up to participate, too: http://tinyurl.com/lnh2a7g.
What do you know how to do?
See you there!