Thursday, September 20, 2012

PBL and Enrichment

At Denmark Middle School, we have "Enrichment" classes that run opposite of Band and Chorus.  The reasoning behind these courses is to give teachers and opportunity to use Project Based Learning in an environment that isn't focused on covering x-amount of standards in y-amount of time.  The format presents plenty of challenges as well as benefits.  As someone who is learning and trying to incorporate more PBL in my classes, Enrichment provides the perfect training ground to hone my skills.

Today, after a particularly difficult day in class, I was trying to think through some ways to deal with some student behavior issues.  Then it hit me - why not make the problem a project?  Because the rules have been challenging to follow, my thought was this - allow the students to group up in teams, or go solo, to create a presentation about the classroom rules.  They can use video, sound, or just create a simple slideshow to show what to do and what not to do.  This solves two issues - one, it gets the students up and moving and doing something instead of trying to focus on me, and subsequently, engaging themselves in other ways; and two, whether they know it or not, they will have to think through the rules and be able to give good examples of what following the rules looks like and what not following the rules looks like.

The beauty of Enrichment is that I have time to tackle a project like that.  In most classes, there is, as I mentioned before, so much curriculum to cover that even spending a few days on something unplanned places some serious time constraints on what we can cover.  Because of Enrichment, these students will have the opportunity to take the rules they are simply told and own them.  And maybe, just maybe, the learning will be so deep and the end-results so powerful that the presentations and videos can have impact beyond my classroom.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

And....We're Off!

Good evening,

The 2012-2013 school year is underway.  The students are back and the learning has begun.  While much of my curriculum has remained unchanged, I am excited about new lessons I worked on for my 6th grade Keyboarding class.  Aside from plentiful reinforcement and training in keyboarding speed and accuracy, I have incorporated what I refer to as a "respecting the computer" unit.  This unit will run the entire term, concurrently with the regular keyboarding instruction.  I thought it was very important to include this information as students in 6th grade are being intrusted with their own laptops.  Some of the topics we will be covering include:

  • Hardware - students will learn some of the more important hardware components of a computer.  Students will also get to see the inside of a computer and apply their learning by identifying the parts we discussed.
  • File management/Getting around - Students will learn the importance of using folders to organize their files.  They will also learn some ways to be efficient when accessing said files.
  • Software - students will be able to identify and explain the purpose of the different software they will commonly find on computers.
  • Internet Browsing 101 - Students will learn about different internet browsers, and be able to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. They will also learn how to use their browser efficiently, through bookmarks, setting their home page, and using function keys.
This is by no means a comprehensive list.  In addition to what I have planned, I have also set up a discussion on our online group page for students to post questions or suggestions for things to cover. 

Is there something you think that 6th graders should be learning about computers?  Feel free to drop it in the comments.