Monday, September 24, 2012

The Success Inquiry Experiment

Last week, coupled with my rant about Bill 115, I shared my attempt to create a "road-map" type of long-range plans. I thought I'd mention how things have progressed with my intermediate division lessons that were inspired by @gcouros on his blog that suggested we begin the year focusing on success instead of rules, giving students the opportunity to share what they want to learn and how the education team can help. I PDF'd the lessons I've taught so far with this inquiry in mind and posted them on my education wiki. I have two Grade 7-8 classes I see for library and ICT (a fixed collaborative time with their classroom teachers), so my reflections will revolve around both classes.

1) Week 1 - I seem to plan more than I'm able to cover in a single lesson. I had to interrupt both groups as they were working on their Success 3T charts because we ran out of time. I was pleased by the differentiation options I made available to the students (they could work in groups of any size, using any means, such as SMART Boards, chalk boards, chart paper or scrap paper, to record their thoughts on what success looks, sounds, and feels like). One student asked if they could just talk. I asked to have some physical evidence to show they were on task - they could've used the school library computers to record their oral discussion, but neither of us thought of this option at the time. The students summarized Mr. Couros' blog post well but were very cautious about expressing any opinion about which approach (rules first or success first) was better.

2) Week 2 - As I wandered the library listening in as the groups discussed success, I was surprised to witness how much trouble they were having defining it. The students were able to articulate how success feels (satisfaction, accomplishment, etc.) but struggled to explain success in other ways. If I engaged in discussion with small groups, that seemed to help a bit. For instance, one group had a good talk about whether success always equals wealth. Another group got excited about considering the relation between collaboration and success and how successful individuals are treated by their peers or society (the notetaker wrote "jealousy" on their chart with glee). The other fascinating observeration was the results of the SMART Board anonymous clicker survey on what I could do as the teacher-librarian to help them be successful. I posted the results of the survey charts on my wiki for people to examine. For instance, the majority of both groups stated that they wanted 50% of the period to be devoted to book exchange and 50% to lesson/instruction. The funny thing about this request is that very few students use this time to actually borrow books - they'll say "I already have a book I'm reading" or they'll share books among themselves and take out the middle man (me), which is why I take my circulation statistics with a grain of salt. How much of their decision for 20 minutes of book exchange was inspired by their quest for success or their desire for free time?

3) Week 3 - Making our discussion of success more concrete by using real-life examples helped a lot. My "5 minute Research Task" was willingly undertaken by the students, especially because they could work in groups of 1, 2 or 3, and they could simply type their findings in the chart on the SMART board. I was pleased to hear comments by the students as we created a list of people they considered to be successful:

 "Hey, there aren't any female names on there!", stated a female Grade 7 student.
(Awesome observation!)

"Do you think Albert Einstein would count? He's dead."
(I said Harry Potter's Voldemort would be the only one to consider death to be a lack of success.)

"Can it be someone Chinese? Like the only female King of China?"
(This was asked by two of my ELL students. Absolutely, was my reply.)

My mini-lesson on using Boolean operators while using search engines went well. I think every group used "and success" as part of their search terms to narrow their results. One of my students wanted to know why these words were called Boolean, and I didn't know the answer. I better look that up in time for our next class. I expected that every group would race to the computers and I was right. For the one or two teams that didn't get a computer right away, I took the opportunity to remind them about using our print encyclopedias. Several teams searched YouTube rather than the Internet as a whole (as a chance to watch videos of their favourite athletes or musicians, I suspect). Some spots in the chart weren't filled in, so we may need extra time to give the slower groups time to finish. I've ordered a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Kids to read to the students and let you know how it progresses, as well as my junior and primary inquiry paths.

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