Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Lost with Freedom

I have written many posts on this subject. Offering freedom to students in the classroom tends to lose most students. By losing students, I mean many students completely shut down and refuse to do the critical thinking involved in completing the assignment.

One of the greatest teachers I have had the privilege to work with gave me many ideas to open the minds of students. J. Jones was the Reading Resource Teacher at the school in which I began my teaching career. After listening and borrowing many of her ideas, students began to be more engaged. The students also began walking down the path to being life-long independent learners.

Great Independent Learner Activity: J. Jones (Thank You)
The Free-write or Focused Free-write

I still use this at least once a week with my students in different forms. Being a science teacher, the lessons can be engaging, but soon you find yourself in what I like to call the "Fill in the Blank Rut". I don't like going to that place. This activity has a broad range. I had the 4th graders write a focused free-write as if they were a meteorologist. There are not many rules to this activity. This can be challenging. Students are used to rules.

The rules:
1. They must discuss the terms and ideas that we discussed about weather
2. They can write no more than 1 page.
3. Time limit of 15 minutes

I like giving the students a Maximum amount to write rather than a minimum... another J. Jones idea. This tends to allow their writing to be a little more meaningful and directed.
There are no other rules to mention. They can write any genre as long as they use the point-of-view of a meteorologist.

I like to give the students a chance to show me how much they are learning on their own terms.
Examples (Titles) of their work...
1. The Rapping Meteorologist
2. The Mystery of the Missing Anemometer
3. The Angry Low Pressure System
4. The Confused Weather Vane

This is a great activity that most students love to do... especially when it's time to share. Some students shut down and say that the activity is too hard. They do eventually come around and grind away at writing with a little coaxing from their friends.

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