Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Staycation Field Trip

Break out of the box
Schools are time based organizations.  We go to school for 7 1/2 hours per day for 180 days per year.

School schedules drive the way we teach.  If you have X minutes to teach math, we are essentially forced to fill that time with math, even if the lesson is not really an X minute lesson.  Can our focus be truly on student learning if we are limited to a certain number of minutes?

Schools develop schedules because students have to eat lunch.  Students go to Explore classes.  We can't have 55 minutes for Math and 90 minutes for Reading and still have the students rotate between classes (unless the same teacher teaches both subjects).  The bus has to pick kids up at a certain time.  In other words, the reasons we need schedules are for logistical reasons.

These constraints are real.  How can we find ways to lessen the restriction of the time barrier?

The Staycation Field Trip
What if a team of teachers who taught Math, Social Studies, Reading, Writing, and Science (interdisciplinary team at the middle level) decided to throw out the schedule for a day or maybe even a couple of days.  They could still send their kids to lunch at lunch time and still send kids to explore classes at the appropriate time.

  • What if kids were required to solve a problem or create a product?  Force students to think differently.  Allow kids writing to be published (do you take more time writing when you know others are going to read it-I know I do).
  • What if the students were required to use skills from all subject areas to complete the project?  Are any projects we do as adults actually so isolated that you could say "Today I spent 46 minutes doing math."  Or do real life projects force us to go back and forth constantly from reading, to writing, to doing math, to working through social problems or issues?
  • What if the project wasn't time based but learning centered? Overcome obstacles like time.  Allow time to learn.
Overcoming Obstacles
Yes, it takes time to do an authentic, learning centered, problem based, product oriented projects.  Yes, this takes away from time giving direct instruction and completing tests and worksheets.  However, the product could be amazing.  Instead of thinking of it as a day off, think of it as a Staycation Field trip.  Most of us are fine with taking a field trip.  We realize the value of removing ourselves from the building and the benefits of learning in a different location.  In a staycation field trip where we aren't rigid to the pacing guide but instead provide a lesson valuable to the student.  We will still cover material for the state test, but we will take time to provide real life, authentic learning opportunities along the way.

Why a staycation field trip?
Wouldn't it be better for kids to learn than for teachers to teach?  What will students remember?  What will be authentic?  What will have lasting value?

Think Outside the boxes on the schedule
Let go of making everyday exactly the same.  Allow for flexibility in scheduling and find ways to engage kids.

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