This is yet another update from my Language Arts classroom. For those that have yet to check this blog list out, you can read about my initial motivation for a student driven classroom, how to “give it up”, an initial class update, and updates titled “It’s About the Learning”, “Learning Should be Viral”, “One on One is the Best”, and “Sub Plans”. All of these updates are experiences from my classroom as related to my decision to hand over the learning decisions to my students.
My latest update comes from something that happened this past week. When initially making the decision to move to a student driven classroom, I knew of one potential problem that I would inevitably encounter. My colleague, Rob Hunt and I realized that when we gave our students the list of standards and said, “go”, we would have students all over the map. In addition, we knew that even though students had until the end of the school year to finish their work, we would have some students finish early. Between the two of us, we predicted we would start seeing some “finishers” in about the middle of May. That would give us plenty of time to think of some extension and enrichment activities for those students to work on for the remaining couple of weeks of school.
Well, we were wrong. I had a student turn in a ton of work last week and essentially finish her standards. Basically, she was finished with her 6th grade Language Arts learning standards by the middle of April and we still have about six weeks left in the school year. Not only did she finish her work, but she mastered these standards with diligence and perfection. She was done with 6th grade well before 6th grade was even over. It makes me think it would be neat to be able to send her on to 7th grade right then…clearly she is ready.
Once this student turned in her work she sat down and read her free reading book for the remainder of the period. I then frantically tried to think of what I was going to do for the next six weeks with her in my class. I was planning on creating some alternate and enrichment assignments but nothing felt like anything more than busy work to me, which I did not feel right doing. In a discussion with my partner in crime on this project, Rob, he just said, “ask her what she wants to do.” While initially this may seem like a cop-out, it was perfect.
When this nameless student came into class the following day we sat together and talked about what she wanted to work on. She told me that she enjoyed a book trailer project we had done earlier in the year and wanted to do that. For the rest of the week she spent reading her book and planning a book trailer production. This will be what she will be working on and she is thrilled about it. The best part is when she asked if it would be graded. I told her, “nope”, and she was pumped that she could just do something she wanted to do. When she finishes this, we will meet again and see where the learning takes her next.
My plan is that as students finish mastering their standards, I will ask them and support them in choosing what to do next. I am excited to see what they will come up with when their learning is not only driven by them but also not constricted by the standards.