Thursday, April 26, 2018

Guest Post: Digital + Traditional = Teaching at Its Best


Rachel Salinger is a high school English teacher at my school, St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. She is passionate about literature and about giving her students learning experiences that arm them with the skills they need to be thoughtful and good stewards of our future. I asked her to share her recent project on my blog because I think it is a stellar example of how traditional teaching and learning strategies can be effectively combined with digital tools for a deeper student learning experience. I referenced this project briefly in my recent EdSurge column and wanted to be sure to highlight it in detail on my blog.

Introduction

In my CP sophomore classes, we read Macbeth over the course of a few weeks. The students really enjoyed the play (surprisingly!) and I wanted to do a more creative assessment at the end instead of a typical paper or test. In the past, I’ve done an iMovie project with Macbeth but really wanted to do something different this year. I met with our digital learning specialists, Julie and Kerry, to try and brainstorm some new ideas for what we can do. I also needed to incorporate some research this year, though a traditional research paper is a lot for my CP kids to take on.

Assignment

In Macbeth, we focused on two main themes: Power and destiny/fate. With those ideas in mind, we came up with the idea of giving each student a historical figure from the last 100 years. The list included politicians, athletes, celebrities, and authors. Students were assigned a person (randomly assigned with the opportunity to re-pick one time)

Students then researched their historical figure using library databases, and found connections to Macbeth.

After they did their research, they put their research and comparisons on an infographic and presented it to the class. The infographic showed the main ideas and comparisons that they found between their historical figure and Macbeth. 

Modeling

I first did this project myself for two reasons:
  • To figure out how much time it would take the students so I could plan accordingly and make sure they have enough time to complete it.
  • To show them a model so they could visually see my expectations of what it should look like and refer back to what I did to avoid some repetitive questions. 
I chose Hitler as my example, since I knew all students had heard of him and he was not an option on their list. I also created a graphic organizer to help students keep their research focused on the topics they needed to cover in the project and completed the organizer with my own Hitler research. Then, of course, I designed my own infographic detailing my analysis.



Student Example

This example was one of the best and I particularly loved it because comparing someone like David Ortiz to a Shakespeare character is not an easy feat. It is an unusual pairing, but this student really did a great job going above and beyond with his analysis. His research was really well done and it was clear that he spent a lot of time working on this.




Overall Reflection

I absolutely loved this project and my students really enjoyed it as well. I got an email from another teacher on campus saying they overheard students talking about it and how it really helped them understand the text better, which is such a wonderful and reassuring thing to hear. While this was a major risk for me to take, I am so glad I did it! It was something new and challenging for me, but the students really did benefit from it much more than they would a traditional paper or test. I look forward to trying more things like this next year!

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