Our class is involved in The Hamilton Spectator‘s Discovering Dinosaurs Project. My students are very interested in dinosaurs, as shown by their love of the dinosaur books in our classroom, and I thought that this project would help them learn more about these creatures, while also connecting to various curriculum areas. This project has allowed students to make meaningful connections to Math topics (i.e., patterning, measurement, and geometry (2-D shapes and 3-D figures)), Science topics (both structures and living things), Language concepts (providing topics for reading, writing, oral communication, and media literacy texts), and The Arts (taking on character roles of dinosaurs (Drama), dancing like dinosaurs (Dance), using the elements of design and creating two- and three-dimensional dinosaur art pieces (Art), and creating our own music to match different dinosaurs and their movements (Music)). While I looked at the activity ideas suggested by The Hamilton Spectator, I often varied from these ideas in an attempt to align more with student interests and meet diverse student needs. This is why I’m now struggling as I try to figure out what to do.
Our final project is to create three-dimensional dinosaurs. Students need to make their own dinosaurs, provide information about their new dinosaur, and explain the thinking behind their decisions. On Friday, my students worked on making their “dinosaur skeletons”: the structures that they’ll use as the base for their dinosaur models that will be finalized in class tomorrow.
While the students will be answering all of the questions on The Hamilton Spectator‘s Dinosaur Profile Sheet, I’m struggling with printing and photocopying this sheet for them.
- I know that some of my students will find it difficult to answer all of the questions in writing.
- I know that some of my students will not be able to read everything on the sheet.
- I know that many of my students could share their thinking so much better in a way that is not restricted to boxes or lines.
- I know that my class found this contest exciting, but winning the prize was not the reason that they loved this project. Many of the students are passionate about dinosaurs, and their own interests as well as challenging questions both in class and from those on Twitter, drove their desire to learn more.
- I know that all of my students are really proud of their creations, and want to bring them home. In the age of technology, can’t they share their dinosaurs with The Spectator and bring them home?
I haven’t used a worksheet all year. I really question if blackline masters meet all student needs, and while I love what The Hamilton Spectator is doing with this dinosaur project, I have to think about my student needs first. So I’m going to continue to be an “educational troublemaker,” and I’m going to share the student work in a different way with the newspaper: through our Twitter account. I’m going to let students choose how they explain their answers to the questions, and how they share the thinking behind their answers. Photographs or videos of the completed newspaper dinosaurs will be part of the student work that’s shared with The Hamilton Spectator.
I know that we’re not officially meeting the contest rules. I know that this means that we may not qualify for the contest. But with social media (Twitter and our daily blog post), students will have an authentic audience for their work, and The Hamilton Spectator will still get to see what they’ve done. This feels right to me, but tomorrow I’ll ask the students what they think, and we’ll finalize our plans from there. What would you do? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as I consider breaking the rules once again!
Good morning Aviva,
First and foremost I love that fact that you are modifying the activities to meet your students’ interests and abilities – a true sign of a master teacher! The fact that you wish to share the dinosaurs in the way you suggest is fine by me. You must understand that your use of technology in and outside the classroom is not something that is practised by the majority of teachers. In time it will be but at present I feel we must continue to offer the ‘paper and pencil’ type of activities. You have however prompted me to think of ways to modify the program to better meet the needs of educators like yourself.
Thank you so much, Joanne, for understanding why we’re going to modify the program and for accepting this modification. I know that everybody feels different when it comes to the use of technology in the classroom, but it’s great that you’re thinking about various options as well. I’m a big proponent of “choice” in the classroom. I’m glad that I can still offer this choice with this project, and I know that my students will really benefit as a result. Thanks for creating such a wonderful project, and thanks for being so receptive to change!