Choice is really important in getting students excited about learning. As the educational guru Robert Marzano states in his book The Highly Engaged Classroom, giving students choice increases their intrinsic motivation, is linked to higher engagement, and overall learning. If you’re interested, you can read more about that in Tips From Dr. Marzano.
In the Creekside Makerspace FLEX (elective) classes, and in 6th grade media, students get to choose their own projects. In our FLEX classes, where I have the incredible Sharon Norris co-teaching with 5th grade, and the amazing Eileen McCallum co-teaching with 6th, we are able to have students do this individually, or in groups, should they so choose.
With the 6th graders in my media classes, since I am teaching all (roughly 150) of them solo, they work on their Passion Projects in groups. My rule is that they have to have at least two people in their groups. If that means they each do something individually and they merge it into a project, that’s great. If they have a group of 10, and each person works on a piece, that’s wonderful too. They have complete control of the way in which they want to make it work. Sometimes it’s smooth and sometimes they learn a lot about working in a team.
Sometimes kids have a hard time figuring out what they want to do when given complete choice. In makerspace, we try and help with this in a few different ways; they can explore the DIY.org website or sort through the makerspace challenges on the Teach Engineering site (check the “Maker Challenge” box on the left to filter for them) or they can look at already created projects in the display case for ideas. We also have a robust collection of maker reference books that they can page through.
With Passion Projects, I guide them through a brainstorming session where they start out with crazy, wild ideas – like a bicycle that you can ride on the ceiling that is made for a cat! Then we break it down into something that is more viable that they can either actually create, prototype or pitch to the class. The students continuously amaze me with their creativity, ingenuity and…well…passion.
The kids do the heavy lifting; they come up with the ideas, pour the energy and time into making it work or figuring out how it could, in theory. They give inspirational, impassioned presentations and hopefully learn a lot in the process.
However, these projects would never be as intriguing, amazing or exciting without choice.
We will start our brainstorming session tomorrow with a read aloud! It starts with an idea…