Each day that we have class, I find myself continually inspired by what we discuss and read. This week we read the article, “The Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching”. Suffice it to say, the author Shelley Wright truly amazed me; not simply because she decided to change her teaching approach for a particular assignment, but because of how she let herself be challenged to try something new and in doing so found an amazing new teaching strategy.
Ms. Wright decided to take a new approach to teaching her students about the Holocaust. Rather than teach them through lecture like she had previously done, she decided to give them a hands-on, inquiry learning experience and had her students research and curate an exhibit on the Holocaust. Instead of giving instructions on steps to take, Ms. Wright simply gave a timeline of where she wanted her students to be, and then let them take the lead. She helped them come up with the focus by having them write ideas on sticky notes and then had her class group the ideas together into like topics. This gave them a starting point to break into groups for researching, but the rest was up to her students.
When they got stuck, she intervened very little and instead guided them to find the answer. And when they needed inspiration to get them over the transition from researching to composition, she showed them a video to inspire them. I found the following statement from the article very poignant, “Inquiry learning is not a familiar experience for them. Instead, by grade 10, my students have learned that if they wait long enough, they will be rescued. Not anymore.” I actually found this to be the crux of her entire lesson and one of the most important skills she taught them – that no one is going to hold their hand through life.
Some of the technology she used in her class were applications we have looked at like Delicious and Google Docs. She showed easy applications of these programs in her classroom. I particularly liked that she introduced them naturally and in a way that fit with what the needs of the assignment were. This was very fitting to her goal of making the assignment something that was relevant and timely for her students.
Though the story of her students working their way through this assignment was inspiring on its own, what got me most was her story. Through this journey, Ms. Wright found herself more engaged and excited about this project because her students were. She had started a brand new project unsure of where it would lead, and ended up learning alongside her students. To me, that is at the heart of teaching, and that is most inspiring about this whole story. I ended up following Ms. Wright on Twitter (@wrightsroom), and in her feed found a tweet with two very amazing videos that gave me chills. Here is the link.
I am going to keep this article in mind so that when I am a teacher I can be reminded to take chances in trying new approaches with my students.