Monday, December 3, 2018

Permission to Be Creative!

Mrs. Johnson (a 5th grade teacher at Granger Elementary) created a collaborative Google Site with the purpose of expanding learning in the ELA and social studies classroom. On the homepage of the site, students find permission to be creative! The site reads, “This will be a place for you to take your learning to the next level by using your creative mind to build on what you’ve already been learning about in class. Think outside the box, explore new ideas, and discover topics that you’d like to know more about.” The license to be creative has led to student ownership that can hardly be put into words.

How did this site come about? Mrs. Johnson states, “Some students finish their classwork quickly and need to have a project to work on, or they need to be challenged to take their learning to the next level. I also have students who simply thrive when having projects to work on. I had many students who fell into these categories this year, and I really wanted provide them with more than just the everyday ELA and social studies classwork. With a blue crayon and a piece of notebook paper, I began jotting down their suggestions. We came up with a few ideas, such as making Google Slides, designing games, and creating Kahoot quizzes. Then, I asked these students about some of their topics of interest. That afternoon, I took their suggestions and organized them into a Google Site. By adding their ideas to the site in an organized way, many more ideas started flowing. I added more ideas of my own, and then I gave about seven students access to this site so that they could add more ideas. Together, we formed the basic structure of this enrichment site.”

Here is how the site works. 1. Students use the “Topics” and “Activity Option” pages to gain inspiration and decide on a creation project that they are interested in. 2. Students click on the timeline spreadsheet and sign up to create a project. 3. Students create the project of their choice using the tool of their choice. 4. Students insert their project into the “Finished Projects” page.  5. Students record a FlipGrid video explaining the what, why, and how of their project. They also explain how their project will impact other students and reflect on what they would have done differently if they were to do the project again.

Students lit up as they shared about their projects. Samanvita, Amari, Kaden, Shabbeer, and John could have chatted for hours about projects they had created and project ideas that were marinating in the back of their mind. "It's not like other classes because we’re getting to chose what we create" said Kaden. "It's really cool," says Amari with a smile, "It's like we are student teachers!" 

Samanvita shares a little about her creation, “I made a Powtoon about point of view, a WeVideo about story elements, and there is is lego website that I’m hoping to make a Stop Motion video from. Right now, I’m using Tinkercad to create a gun from the Revolutionary War. I also made a George vs. George quiz. I think I made it a little too tricky because most people only got 30%.” Samanvita asked me to take the quiz and I’m sad to say that I failed as well. All that said, she had feedback woven within the quiz and was able to help me learn from my mistakes.

Other created projects include, a 3D print of the Boston Tea Party ship, a mini Lexia series to help others who may want extra practice, various Kahoot and Google Form quizzes over covered topics, and even stop motion videos. According to these students, the most challenging aspect of the project is time management and choosing the right tool for the resource that they are making. They are learning that some tools are limited and they need to be purposeful when choosing. Many of these students get excited about their projects and end up working both at school and at home.

John's Mini Lexia Quiz and a Point of View Google Form
Kaden's Boston Tea Party Scratch Game

 In closing, Mrs. Johnson points out, “I was most surprised with how smooth the transition has been and how little guidance is needed. My students are extremely self-driven and self-motivated with this website. I am impressed with the variety of products that they have created as a result of this website. I am also thrilled about how excited they are to create so many different projects.” She adds, “One of our campus initiatives is to raise the level of Masters scores by 10%. I definitely believe that by doing these types of self-initiated projects, our students will show growth in their reading and thinking abilities.”

Be on the lookout for some of these student created products at EXPO 2019!

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