"Teach Me How to Teach" Projects: It's {almost} a Wrap! 2014-2015 Top 10 Highlights #1

...Students become teachers in this classroom project...

Alright, at this point, the 2014-2015 school year is a wrap!!!! We finished out last Friday with a 1/2 day and Mr. Tarheelstate officially moved in all of his belongings so we spent the weekend unpacking boxes. Every time I found the bottom of a box, I celebrated by pulling off the tape and breaking the box down. {No, really, it's that exciting to get down to the bottom of a box and have all that stuff put away. Especially when some of the boxes belong to a 7 year old!} I spent an entire day (12 hours) painting the dark wood trim in my office white...it took 2-3 coats to get the job done. We have been BUSY and I'm looking forward to a summer of officially feeling married and being a new mommy :)

But, let's put an official wrap on  my highlights from 2014-2015 by taking a look at my students' favorite highlight of the year, our "Teach me How to Teach" science projects.  We completed these projects twice this year, both at times when students could have been disengaging--the week before spring break and the last two weeks of school {that LONG stretch of days after testing}. I wanted to capitalize on the skills my students learned during our

Ecosystems Museum Projects

AND put a new spin on the ol' "research, make powerpoint, present" assignment.

students teach the class in this end of year

Teach Me Topics: 

In our first "Teach Me" project, I decided to allow students to teach one of our "Earth History" objectives: Give examples of how the surface of the earth changes due to slow processes such as erosion and weathering, and rapid processes such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.

In the second "Teach Me" project, students picked up some of the objectives we had not yet learned about:

1) Explain how minerals are identified using tests for the physical properties of hardness, color, luster, cleavage, and streak.

2) Classify rocks as metamorphic, sedimentary, or igneous based on their composition, how they are formed and the processes that create them.

3)  Explain the role of vitamins and minerals, and exercise in maintaining a healthy body.

For the second round, I split partnerships into two groups of teachers: Rocks and Minerals and Vitamins and Minerals.

1) I launched the first unit with a true/false anticipation guide from a mini-unit I have on Plate Tectonics called "The Changing Earth." I designed this unit sooo long ago, but I still love the way I organized it. It was easy to pique students' interest in their "Teach Me" topics with the following statements:

1. Mountains can form when one land mass collides into another.

True: The Himalayan Mountains formed when India and Asia collided 50 million years ago. 225 million years ago, India was an island.

2. Islands can form when lava piles up on the ocean floor and eventually comes to the surface.

 True: Iceland has an island called Surtsey that was formed by lava erupting and piling up on the ocean floor.

3. Mountains can be found in the ocean.

 True: The earth’s longest mountain change is found in the ocean.

4. It is possible for cities to move so much that they change places with other cities.

 True: Los Angeles, located on the Pacific Plate, is now 340 million miles south of San Francisco, located on the North American plate. In 16 million years, the plates will have moved so much that Los Angeles will be north of San Francisco. (Isn't this a movie right now?!?)

5. Oceans can shrink over time.

 True: The Pacific Ocean basin is slowly shrinking because the Atlantic Ocean basin is opening up and pushing the North America and South America are moving westward.

2) After students chose one of the true/false statements to research and were introduced to the idea of the changing Earth, I told students they were going to be the teachers and would teach in partners. I even allowed students to choose their own partners for this project. {Risky, but it worked!}

Partnerships chose specific topics for their "Teach Me" lesson from a list of related topics that I had generated beforehand based on the objective--not necessarily based on their true/false statement.

3) Students used the planning sheet I provided and began researching their topic to create a slideshow to aid in their lesson. As students researched, they were also told to think about what kind of activity they might use to help their students learn about the topic in a hands-on way. Students planned away. I gave them about a week of science time to research, complete a slideshow, and decide on their hands-on activity. As students planned with their partner, I helped by meeting with them to discuss their hands-on activity. I did a lot of searching for activities related to their topic that would be easy for them to use.

4) Scheduling the Lessons: I identified all 45 min - 1 hour blocks of time I could offer during the week before spring break (or before the last day of school for our second "Teach Me" unit.) Because it was the week before spring break and we had just wrapped up larger projects, I was able to have two partners teach each day. The order of the teaching/presentations went in the sequence that made the most sense for the material that students were teaching. Some days during the "teaching" week, partnerships had an hour to continue preparing, collecting materials, and check in with me to make sure they were ready.

5) Presentations! Teaching! Student-led hands-on activities!

It was SHOWTIME! :) We created models of the layers of the Earth, put together a Pangea puzzle and a tectonic plates puzzle, erupted a few vinegar and baking soda volcanoes, did a "types of volcanoes" sort activity, and modeled tsunamis and earthquakes.

6) Reflection and Feedback:

 After watching students teach their lessons, I knew REFLECTING on what they did was a critical piece of the project. Each partnership completed a reflection form together. This gave students the chance to compliment themselves and note areas that they would improve upon if given another chance to teach. I had them reflect on any unexpected things that happened in their lesson, because well, that's really a teacher's life. I also wanted students to discuss how they shared the responsibility of both planning and teaching the lesson.

Having students provide feedback to each teacher/presenter was really important too. After students went through the act of teaching--researching, creating a lesson, putting together a powerpoint, and implementing an activity, I really wanted them to receive positive feedback from their peers.

For teacher feedback, I made a quick list of things I wanted to pay attention to during the presentation/lesson: knowledge of topic, organization of lesson, completeness of presentation, sharing of lesson with partner, and the hands-on activity. I completed the 1/4 pg feedback form for each "teacher" individually and rated them on a 1-4 scale {this is how our reports cards are}. For some things, I gave students n/a's or "unsure" because based on their presentation, I was unsure. This came up a good bit with partners who did not share the presenting of their topic very well when teaching. I was "unsure" if some students really had "knowledge of the material." The feedback form had just enough space for me to write remarks I had regarding the lesson.

Get my "Teach Me How to Teach" project materials for free. These may not stay up free forever, so grab them now!

Remember how I said I had some surprises this year with student engagement and motivation? This was one of those projects/activities where I thought it was "cool" when I thought of it--ok, cool-school, but my students' response to "Teach Me how to Teach" blew me away. They got SOOO excited to find their activity, make their powerpoint--this time with bells and whistles to keep their students engaged, excited to teach their lesson, and excited to watch one another teach. When it was all over the first time, they BEGGED me to do it again. So, I promised that after End of Grade testing would be a perfect time to allow them to plan another lesson. "Teach Me" was also one of those projects where I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into or how the lessons would turn out. I was taking a risk. This year was about taking a lot of risks as a teacher.

Students become teachers in this

A big reason I LOVED this unit was that EVERY SINGLE lesson was hands-on. I will happily and honestly admit that I do not always have the time and energy to make science hands-on for every.single.lesson. Helping students find hands-on activities and helping them gather materials to teach their lesson felt easier than doing it all by myself. While students were busy working on their powerpoints/teaching materials, I met with partnerships to discuss activities and materials needed. We gathered what we already had at school and either I or the students brought in the additional materials. We were able to PLAN for our school day DURING our school day. {Novel concept!}

It was so fun watching my students teach--the good, the bad, and the ugly! I watched students successfully give directions and also watched them become frustrated when their classmates talked over them or did not understand directions. {"Welcome to my world" is all I could think!}

I am glad that we were able to do this project twice because having students walk through a process more than once is something I have figured out this year that is extremely important. Students deserve the opportunity to try something again. After putting time and energy into learning a skill set, it is important to give students the opportunity to apply that skill set again {usually with different content} to capitalize on the first experience and continue to develop and hone their skills. 

This post wraps up my 2014-2014 highlights. I hope you have enjoyed the ride as I have LOVED reflecting and documenting on the past year. As a bonus, I actually have one more 2014-2015 Highlight post of my sleeve that focuses just on math in general. If I included math highlights in my Top 10, it would take up the whole list. It is TRULY my favorite subject to teach AND the passion for math that I share in the classroom transfers to my students. See you soon!