Wait a second, who is the teacher and who is the student?

The things I’ve learned this year with GID are endless.  The students have taught me so much.  As adults who are helping students become lifelong learners, it is important to remember that we are also lifelong learners.  When students are allowed and encouraged to ask their own questions, authentic learning happens.  I knew this, but seeing it firsthand was beyond what I imagined and understood.  The students were enraged at some of the events that happened during the civil rights movement.  They went beyond the who, what, and where questions, and focused on the why.  This is at the heart of lifelong learning.  The students didn’t spit out facts to pacify teachers for grades; they asked the socially conscious questions that could potentially help form who they become as people.  If as educators we can design and implement lessons that end in students questioning such concepts of racism and discrimination, won’t we all be better in the long run?  That’s the goal for me.

When working with students, we are always looking for ways to improve and do it better next time.  This is true for the civil rights movement unit that we did with 7th graders.  While I couldn’t be more pleased with the depth of the questions the students asked, we need to make a few adjustments.  These were mistakes that WE made, not a problem with GID or the students.  As a team, we discussed that the novelty of working with all three classes together was a bit of a distraction for students at first.  One possible solution would be for the students to have more opportunities to work in different groups throughout the year.   Another mistake that we made was not having a note catcher for the students to work on while they were reading and discussing the articles at the stations.  This would help to focus some of those little ones that aren’t necessarily interested in doing what they are supposed to do and provide a bit of comfort for the over-achievers that want to be doing everything right.

One of the struggles that I need to personally work on is time.  To do it properly, GID takes some time.  It takes time to plan and collaborate, and time for implementation.  I think this might be more of a challenge for middle and high school teams than elementary teams.  At the secondary level in our district, students are only in class with a particular teacher for 50 minutes each day.  In order to do a full unit, you need several weeks.  Here is the deal, though.  It takes several weeks IF you only implement in one class.  When working on a smaller unit that I planned with English teacher Paige Holden, we were able to piggyback off of a lesson done in social studies class to drastically cut down on the time needed in English class.  We didn’t have much time in the spring semester with the crazy standardized testing schedule that our students have, but by having social studies teachers do the first two phases of GID, we were able to squeeze in one more unit!  We have 4 days of school left, and we can’t wait to see their final products.  There seems to always be a solution to struggles through creativity and collaboration with colleagues.

Terri Curtis

It’s all about the questions

Our school has implemented two big and a couple of smaller GID units this year.  My dear friend Paige Holden has already blogged about an 8th grade research unit that our school planned and implemented as a result of attending the GID training.  I would like to talk about one component of a larger unit that I will never forget.

 

Civil Rights Movement:

 

We did a large unit with 7th grade English teachers.  In the interest of not taking credit for someone else’s work,  I feel obligated to say that the librarian at our school, Kristin Lankford, and 7th grade English teachers did most of the planning of this unit.  My role in this unit was primarily in implementation.  

 

7th grade students learned about the civil rights movement by asking difficult questions.  During the identify phase of the unit, 7th grade English classes came to the library to read articles about different events that happened during the civil rights movement.  We had between 90-105 students who rotated through 10 stations over the course of 3 days.  Each station was equipped with several copies of an article about a particular civil rights event.  Each station had a large piece of butcher paper and markers. Students read the article with their group and wrote down facts, questions, thoughts, impressions and comments about the articles.  All adults that were there (we had some teacher illness, library meetings, and various other stuff that pulled us in different directions) wandered between groups and entered discussions as needed.

 

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The three classes weren’t used to being mixed together, so the kids were pretty excited.  It took longer for them to settle into class than I thought it would.  The first day of the identification wasn’t quite as productive as the other two, but we as educators learned a lot and were able to make some adjustments that helped.  We erased or crossed out all of the illuminati symbols that the kids drew, looked for naughty words, and gave lectures about the appropriate use of markers (they shall not be thrown like darts at your neighbor).   The next two days were quite incredible.  The comments and questions that the students had were so mature and interesting.  My favorite question was “Who came up with racism?  Why not white people rather than colored?”.  I read it over and over and over and over.  I felt like if one kid gets it to this extent, that we had done a great job.  I continued reading and there were many great comments and questions with such depth.  

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We left the comments and questions out for all three days so all of the classes could read what other students were thinking.  Here is an example of what the papers looked like at the end of the third day. (The back is completely full, too.)

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As you can see, some of the comments were reporting dates, names, events, etc., but for me, I think the beauty lies in the questions.

Terri Curtis