8 Big Ideas

I was recently turned on to this post by Scott McLeod (thanks to Twitter). Mr. McLeod writes about the GenYes Blog’s post about the 8 Big Ideas of the Constructionist Learning Lab. As I was perusing the “8 Big Ideas”, I started thinking about what goes on in my classroom. The ideas outlined seem like no-brainers, but I had to ask myself if I followed the concepts presented. After all, part of being a life-long learning is reflection, correct? The process was very eye-opening to me.

I realized that I still need to work hard on learning by doing. Trying to figure out how to make reading and writing a hands on activity is something that I struggle with. One of the ways that I am going to try to address this is by having my students be more hand on with their learning. I am going to go over the standard with them (thank you, Common Core Standards, for allowing me to do this without my brain exploding) and then ask THEM what they need to know in order to master the standard. I know that it will make planning more extensive, but the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs.

This segues perfectly into the next idea that struck me as pertinent: learning to learn. By giving my students more control over their learning, I will be giving them skills that will help them for the rest of their lives. Maybe it will encourage them to take the next step and the next and eventually not be so reliant upon other people to give them information. I also know that it is going to be a long process to get my students where they need to be. Many of them will be frustrated and challenged more than they’ve been challenged before. However, once they get started, they will enjoy it.

Hard fun is the third concept that stood out to me. Once they get used to the difficulty of guiding their own learning, they will start to see the fun in it. When I think of the classrooms of teachers that I admire, I see the students working hard, but having fun. The teachers in those classrooms take a challenging, abstract idea and make it the students’ responsibility to make it concrete. They guide the students, of course, and give them the help that they need when they get stuck; they also allow the students to fail over and over again in search of the solution. The thing is, the students love it. I like to think that I give my students some opportunities like this. I also know that I could do so much better at providing these sorts of things for my students.

Big idea #5, taking time, is one that worries me the most. I know that I can give my students unplanned time in the classroom. In fact, I do it often. When I say unplanned, I don’t mean letting the students do whatever they want. I mean that they have a task to complete in a certain amount of time, but how they get there is up to them. Unfortunately, my ability to give my kiddos time to learn how to manage it is limited by the requirements of the district. In this time of benchmarking, testing, assessing the assessments, and high stakes testing, the timeline of my classroom is determined by my administrators. Instead of being allowed to go more in-depth with what my students are learning, I have to fit 20 performance objectives into four-week intervals. I have to figure out a way to help my students get to where they need to be while still passing the “formative” pencil-and-paper tests required by the district. Maybe giving them the skills to learn on their own will help.

This is only the beginning of my musings on this topic. I know that I will have many more epiphanies as my brain chews on these concepts.

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