I want to share our first “project” in American Studies and the philosophy behind it. First of all, it will not really be a project at all. When the students and I started looking at the standards for this year we noticed that there was a ton of overlap with last year’s standards for Global Studies. In particular both classes include WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. The standards do have a bit more of a domestic focus but some of them are practically identical. These standards are also a big chunk (approximately 25%) of the “power” standards for this year.
I felt like my students did a very nice job with WWI and WWII last year and have a good understanding of these events. Their level on the Cold War was not quite as deep though. So we decided to start the year by reviewing WWI, WWII, and how WWII led to the origins to the Cold War. We will return to the rest of the Cold War later this year. We will spend only two weeks on this and end with a test. Of course the test will be like last year’s test: open internet and collaborative.
Why are we doing this? Quite simply I hate standardization but I am forced to teach the state standards. So to paraphrase a story told to me by a colleague about a conversation he had with Dennis Littky of Big Picture school. At their school students are encouraged to study their passions. My friend asked him how they deal with standards. Dennis told him, “You do what you have to do.” So they cram all of the standards in at the beginning with students knowing that they are working hard so that they will have space in the year to explore their passions later. So that is my motivation here.
We are going to knock out a big chunk of standards at the beginning in order to create space later in the year for students to dig deep into their individual (or group) passions related to being an American citizen. Since this is our second year together I already know what those interests are for most of the students. So this is why I have a vague idea of how this year will end but am extremely excited because I expect my students to decide to do some amazing work to make our world a better place.
Very interesting approach to teaching the required standards but finding room for students to explore their passions. I like that you’re being up-front with the students about the standards and including them in the process. Hopefully the fact that they know they’re working to “earn more time” to explore their interests more in your class will keep them motivated.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that you’ve had them before — I’m in a similar situation with my group of seniors this year and it goes a long way toward starting the year on the right foot!
What an interesting approach to getting the standards the state require to be taught met while still allowing yourself and your students to have a little “free time”. I love this! I have a few friends who teach here in Alabama and I often hear them complain about not getting to expand on topics their students are interested in because they have to meet the state standards. I wonder if they too could benefit from this approach. I would imagine that some standards here overlap as you have pointed out yours do. I will most defiantly keep this in mind when I begin teaching myself. I’d love to hear what your plan is for the end of the year and if this approach goes as planned.
Windy, I do plan to update our projects as the year goes. So stay tuned and I will let you know how our journey goes. I fully expect to be surprised by the unexpected from students.
I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am currently taking EDM310. I think this is a very interesting way to run a class. The idea that you spend time on what the students need to learn versus what you are supposed to cram down their throats, is phenomenal. I wish I could have time to study my passions.
As a future teacher how can you make time for student passions?