This year my class has had relatively little direct instruction. Students have learned most of the content from discovery activities. I have noticed, after a topic or unit is complete, the knowledge students usually recall is what I taught them in my mini-lessons, not information they discovered in the projects/activities. I have also observed that students remembered information they wanted to learn more about. One feature of Joey Till's class I love is that the students choose what they want to learn. The kids totally buy into his class because they have ownership.
I have put a GREAT deal of time into creating authentic, interesting, and engaging activities this year, but next to Mr. Till's self-created "math journals", the kids just aren't very enthusiastic. In his class, they work ahead, give themselves homework, and cover more material than he would using direct instruction. So, I feel like my activities are slowing learning in my class. They are starting to feel like really good worksheets (that hurt to type).
Unfortunately, I'm running out of time this year, so this experimental class model will last until the end of the school year. Here it is: I'm going to use direct instruction (my style) 4 out of 5 days each week. My instruction will end with 10-15 minutes left in class. Students will then write a journal entry on what they learned and what they want to know more about. Once a week, students will have the whole period to do 2 things: 1. post and respond to an online discussion about what they learned that week. 2. choose a topic from the week, something they learned or want to learn more about and make a presentation of some kind--podcast, PowerPoint, iMove, iPhoto book, etc. I would also like to include a unit-long project that would combine the weekly presentations into a unit portfolio of some kind.
I hesitate to publish this new model. As a champion of progressive education I feel like a hypocrite advocating for direct instruction. Am I moving backward? I hope not. Its just an experiment. There are a few pieces to this new model I'm not quite sure about and would desperately like some feedback about:
- What are your general thoughts?
- What should my expectations be about daily journals?
- Is 1 day enough each week for posting and presentations?
- Should I include a presentation day for student work? Weekly? Biweekly?
- What should the end-of-unit project look like?
- What programs would be best for each component?
- What are the potential problems?