Personalization Tip #9
Create opportunities for collaboration and connection between students.
We had a great week in AP Lang. Really. Despite multiple virtual days, state hockey tournaments, and a flurry of student vacations, we were able to work together on a fun group activity.
Because the class is generally personalized by method and pace, most of the time students are working independently. Yes. They chat and enjoy one another's company and work alongside each other, but most of the time, they are working on different items.
For that reason, it is really important to create spaces and opportunities where we come together to do something collaboratively.
For my current curriculum design, I create these moments at the beginning of each new unit. Not only are students working together, but they are being introduced to the concepts of the upcoming unit.
I try to design these activities with an authentic purpose. For instance, as I've posted multiple times, I love creating true crime related activities to engage them in investigation and critical thinking. I have also created activities to connect course material to their daily lives in the form of high school gossip and social media.
But mostly, I just want them to do something together and take a break from any feelings of isolation that can come with personalized learning.
This year, I have been working to improve those activities that have worked in the past and creating some new opportunities to get the class collaborating on engaging projects.
This last week, we tried one of these new ones: a simulation of what the United Nations does. Essentially, I gave students a global issue, assigned them a country to represent, and asked them to work together to draft a shared resolution.
Here's an Overview:
This multi-day activity is designed to mirror the process of MUN (or Model United Nations) competition on a smaller scale. Students will be assigned countries from around the world and present resolutions for a provided topic of discussion. In this case, the students will act as members of the UNICEF committee to mitigate the problem of child labor around the world.
Students will research their country and it’s current practices in regards to child labor, prepare a draft resolution, vote on the top three resolutions, and then enter into a debate with the goal of creating a shared resolution that can win the votes of the member states (USA, United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France).
While it ended up being stretched over a few more days than I wanted, I loved the conversations we had as a class. Students did a great job of qualifying their own arguments to suit others and negotiated in creative ways.
If you are interested, I have a teaching narrative written out below! Be well, all.
After over five days pent up in my house with COVID, I am happy to announce that I FINISHED THE SUPPLEMENT PACKS!
In fact, it will probably seem a little controversial, but I'm actually pretty happy that COVID finally found me. This is not to minimize how horrible this pandemic has been for our country, but in all honesty... I needed a forced break.
This year has been trying in new, unprecedented ways already, but the addition of my new position has left me in tears, bitter, and exhausted more than I ever imagined possible. I was forcing myself to go at full speed every second that I was at school, and I was burning out. Badly.
While I would not enjoy going back to my first (and worst) days of COVID, I have enjoyed the last few days of quarantine immensely. I made a book list for the rest of the school year. I started organizing my crazy ramblings into a possible table of contents. And I finished the supplement packs I started at the beginning of the year.
The heavy, heavy fatigue of COVID has emerged as a metaphor for the burden I'd been carrying around before being forced to stop and take care of myself for a minute. I have never been as physically tired as I was in the first days of my COVID spell, but I would also say I had never been as emotionally and mentally tired as I was leading up to my positive test.
As much as it should be a lesson about self-care and perspective, I know I'll go back to school tomorrow with the same over eagerness that will end up in the same burnout. All I can really do is try to remind myself about balance moving forward and do the work that brings me joy (and spend less time on the rest).