New Curriculum Model vs. Old School Philosophy
As any teacher can attest to, trying to be innovative in an industrial-era model of school is challenging. This blog post details some of the issues I faced as my students moved forward with their projects and negitiated the new model I set up. Some things we were able to work around with grant money and a little brainstorming, other things like school policy, stymied their progress.
From January 2015:
We have now officially had our full 20 Time work days in both my “A” and “B” day classes. I observed much more real work going on with the projects. Most teams charted out their timelines for the duration of the project, allocated responsibilities for blog posts, as well as other project elements.
By and large the change in model has been successful. I did have a couple of interesting conversations with my writer groups though. The students that have committed themselves to writing a novel, collection of short stories or poetry anthology actually espoused a dislike for the new model and I can understand why. One student lamented that the weekly writing requirement forced him to create a writing routine for himself. He has found without the class requirement of weekly writing, it is difficult to make himself write, especially when writer’s block sets in. I completely understand this dilemma. I explained to him that I schedule some time each week that I must sit down and write, even if I don’t want to, even if I have nothing to say. I sometimes write the same word over and over until something comes, but I make myself do it no matter what I have going on in my everyday life because I know how hard it is to get back into a habit once you have deviated. For this particular student, I offered to have a “dummy” requirement of a chapter a week due to me on Fridays. He was a little hesitant this would work, but agreed. I am thinking of setting up some system where all my writers could do this since many of them talked about the issue of not having a routine to follow.
On the other hand, my mentor text project with another student has really taken off. In fact, a student from a different project has, of her own volition, jumped in. She also struggles sometimes with the density of “novels of literary merit,” but wants to increase her reading acumen. It was heartening to see the two of them discussing what they liked and what they were looking for in books. With my guidance, they both found books to try out. It helps they have similar interests- historical fiction and romance. In an effort to help with this mentor/ladder text issue in secondary classrooms, I investigated the availability of a program that would help find books similar in lexile level and prose style. I want something similar to Pandora for music, but most of what is out there (Amazon, Goodreads) is more if you liked one genre, you would like these books. That is not really what I want. I want students to be able to reach to other areas for books with similar prose style, not necessarily genre. I did stumble across an interesting idea, the Book Genome Project.
Some of the obstacles we have encountered thus far have to do with the general philosophy and current model of public school. I find it interesting that many systems have jumped on the STEM and Project-Based Learning train, but do not take the steps to encourage success for the classes that embrace it.
Read full blog post “21st Century Curriculum in Industrial Era Schools: The Challenges and Triumphs” at Strawbabies and Chocolate Beer
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