Friday, 1 June 2012

Do Not Go Gentle

Students film a re-enactment of a poem using supplies from the candy station
Today was a great day. There are so many people who inspired today's events including my staff members Russ Reid and Rick Van Camp, as well as Scott Harkness and Pernille Ripp.  Scott and Pernille have both recently blogged about their efforts to kick it up a notch as student (and staff) energy  fades down the stretch. Russ and Rick have been pushing themselves  (and me) to stay motivated in our own school. 

This week students have appeared to be completely uninspired. We still have another 12 days of classes (and then exams) but we all have "summer on the brain". Let's face it, we live in Penticton. The weather is spectacular and it's hard to justify being inside at all.  To top it all off, the grads were having their big grad camp out this weekend and there were rumours that most of them weren't even going to be in school for a good part of the day. What's a grade 12 teacher to do? If the students don't care why should I bother? Luckily I've been physically (and virtually) surrounded by a number of educators who refuse to see apathy as a "student" problem. Inspired by so many others who were refusing to give in to the "dying of the light" I decided to go for it. If only 2 students showed up for class on Friday, so be it. In order to review our unit on the Romantic Poets I took the QR code idea and linked it to various video clues.  The QR code clues and puzzles were then combined with a creative component where teams had to complete 10 of 14 tasks using creative methods.  I then added a final challenge directly inspired by the brilliant "Mullet Ratio"lesson which I had learned about via twitter.

Stage One of the challenge was based on the QR codes. The QR clues were mostly linked to basic recall questions but I asked different staff members to let me take short videos of them reading out the clues. The students really appreciated the variety and participation of those teachers.  Stage Two was the creative component. The creative challenges involved various tasks including dance, art, music and technology. Students had to re-create key elements of the poems and make connections between them in creative ways. Every team had a flip camera so they recorded their activities and explanations on video (because there is no way I could track all the teams at once when they were all over the building). At the end of the challenge every team handed in one video camera and one puzzle sheet where they had recorded the video clues and decoded a puzzle. (Thanks again to Pernille for the webinar on using video cameras in the classroom). 

"Rapping" key lines of a poem with a beat from the keyboard
Once students had completed the QR code puzzle and the creative challenges, they had one Final Challenge to finish.  The challenge simply asked students to connect any poem in the unit in any way possible to the topic of "mullets". We made a "Wall of Epic Mullets" on the board and all the groups had to add their ideas to the wall. Points were awarded for connecting knowledge of the poems to the concept of "mulletness". I admit that the mullet idea was really just about the novelty. Kids thought it was funny and they certainly had to think outside the box to connect 200 year old poetry to the concept of a hairstyle. Luckily mullets DO give  you lots to work with if you are used to thinking in a creative and abstract way. We put up some pictures of epic mullets on people like Chuck Norris, Jaromir Jagr and George Clooney to add inspiration.

The lesson was a definite success. Students who had been starting to tune out were running from QR code to QR code and from challenge to challenge. My absolute favourite moment was a student in full sprint down the hallway yelling "Searcy! We found the last code!!" While I wish he hadn't yelled quite so loudly, I have to say that having that particular student show that much enthusiasm could only be described as a triumph.

Drawing key themes using window writers

There are two things I will always remember about today. First, I will remember the efforts of my students. They showed up and they bought in. Despite the fact that it was 2nd to last block on the Friday of grad camp out, they were running around, drawing, rapping, sculpting and arguing about how to connect old poetry to mullets. Attendance was excellent, and every group was still working when the bell rang to end the class. I spent most of my time laughing at their quirky creativity and frantic efforts to find little coloured bar codes hidden around the school. I was reminded once again about why I love working with teenagers. As students ran past me down the hallway or came up with a creative connections I kept thinking that the whole thing was so worth it. 

Making connections on the "Epic Wall of Mullets"
The most memorable lesson I will take from today however, is the power of the inspiration of others. Eight different staff members at my school helped me create video clues for the scavenger hunt. I was also able to draw from the examples of other teachers like Pernille and Scott and Russ who were using creative ways to keep their own students motivated. When I was personally losing momentum and thinking "What's the point? we're so close to the end anyway, there were other educators around me who themselves refused to stop pushing forward. Their efforts gave me the inspiration to keep trying new things. In times like this I believe our students need us to step up and prove that we do value their education and their time and that they are worth putting in that extra effort. As adults, we also need to model that we are able to push through fatigue and promote excellence even when we are the least motivated to do so. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a such an amazing lessons, you have definitely given me some ideas! Thank you so much for the kind words and this is what social media is all about; inspiring and helping each other whenever we can.