The following is a guest post by Kristin Dreyer and Nikki Lehman. They are writing a series of posts detailing their work in redesigning a unit of study. This series will include before, during and reflective posts. You can find Nikki and Kristin on Twitter – @CHS_Writer @krdreyer12.
Before Beginning the Unit
Once we learned we were going to be teaming again (yay! 😍), we sat down to discuss how our classroom plans and activities would look almost eight years later with updates in technology and our own pyramid’s move to 1:1/FCPSOn. Both of us had bookmarked and printed ideas from our colleagues, Facebook and Twitter to utilize, and we hoped to find a way to implement them to enhance our students’ reading, writing and critical thinking.
Nikki had been “sitting” on Kasey Bell’s 4C’s Learning Menu for months waiting for the most appropriate time to use it, and together we decided that our first unit of third quarter — identity and beliefs connected to Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese — would give us the opportunity. The learning menu allowed us to create tasks and activities that would not only guide students’ reading, but also allow them to explore the 4C’s Bell offers: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity.
We also made the immediate connection between the 4C’s and the important 21st century skills outlined in FCPS’s Portrait of a Graduate, so we swapped out Bell’s icons for those our students are beginning to recognize to remind them that what we are engaged in in class today will prepare them for whatever important work they engage in tomorrow.
The learning menu template is wonderfully adaptable to ANY grade level, subject area or lesson topic, and we think it will be especially valuable for a shorter text/unit such as Yang’s graphic novel. Nikki is a bit concerned that we are asking too much of our students in a short period of time (six or seven classes), but it is important to us to address the components offered and to give students ample worktime to explore the various tasks.
We are excited to work with this novel – which has themes and ideas that high school students can easily relate to- and we hope they will be able to make connections with the text and with each other. Our goal this year has been to create a classroom environment in which students can both elevate their skills AND express and explore their understanding of the human condition. Stay tuned to see how it goes and what our students think!