Creating a lesson that promotes independence and creativity
I have been looking for opportunities to incorporate the COVA model (Harapnuik, 2017) into my classroom, and the perfect opportunity finally came up. My class has been studying Australia and students were interested in the animals of Australia. There was a premade lackluster PowerPoint presentation in my lesson resources that would have given the students information on animals of Australia, but instead of going that route, I decided that this is the perfect time for students to explore and learn for themselves.
I teach sixth grade social studies and the ability to research a topic is part of our TEKS. In order for a lesson like this to be successful, I first looked at what I wanted them to discover and ways I could guide them to be successful researchers. At the sixth grade level, research is relatively new to our students. I decided to give them three sites to use for research purposes and a short list of Australian animals they could complete their research over. I researched each animal on the list using the sites I would be giving the students to use to ensure they would be successful in finding what they need. Researching ahead of time also gave me an idea of what they would find and gave me a way to guide them if they got stuck.
How they made it their own
Students were able to choose an animal to study, they were given three options for research (most used all three), then they were given control over what facts they chose to share. They used their facts to create a poster where they had choice over what they they shared and how it looked. The choices they had over research and end product created a sense of ownership for many of my students. The posters reflected their work and many put more effort into making it look the way they wanted it to. The choice in research ad facts they shared, led many of my students to try and find unusual facts based on questions they had about their animal.
This was my first time trying a lesson like this, and I was blown away by how engaged my students were and how much work they put into their products. It was nice to give over the control to them, though some still needed guidance and a few still wanted reassurance that they were doing the project correctly. My meetings with students were more like consultations, and not one of them asked me to do it for them. The main take away from this project for me is how much engagement and the quality of work went up for my students. With this project, I was also able to reach students who are normally not interested in my class, and it proved just how valuable adding choice to our lessons can be. In the future I would like to add choices for research sites, as well as more choice in what they research. I will also add choices on the product they produce the next time I create a lesson like this. I do feel like the students learned more through this lesson, but I am still looking for ways to create more authentic learning with real world applications in my class.
Samples of student work
Harapnuik, D. (2017, Oct. 22). It's About Learning Creating Significant Learning Environments, Lamar University. Retrieved from http://www.harapnuik.org/?page_id=6988
This blog includes posts about education and digital learning and I will update frequently so check back often for new posts!