Monday, April 16, 2007

Own It!

All semester our professors have been continuously talking about the idea of ownership and how students need to own their learning in order for them to better understand the material. My first impression of this idea, was that is completely ridiculous. It simply didn't make any sense. As I heard more and more though, it made more sense and it seemed like it might actually be effective in the classroom. Now after being in the classroom for a few months and looking specifically for examples, I've seen it and that it does indeed work. Last Friday I did a science circus on electricity in my classroom. The two activities I designed had no real instructions. They simply had the required materials and told the students the desired results. This was a gamble, but I did have a reason for doing this. I wanted to see what the students knew and how they applied it to the activity. One of the activities was making a battery out of a lime, and even though none of the students could figure it out, they were able to draw on their previous knowledge and create some of their own in to deciding what things to try and what things not to. You could see that they had more of a desire to make it work, because it was their project, not something I had given to them with clear-cut instructions. So, owning science instruction...check.

Owning instruction in language arts is fairly simple. Even without trying this can be accomplished, in particular in writing. It is after all the students' writing. Students can own things reading too, as long as they have some choices in what it is that they are reading. Technology is another subject that seems fairly simple to have the students own. They create the power point presentations, or the Excel graphs, or the podcasts. It is their design and they can edit these how they please. Same with art, music, and physical education. It all, or at least most of it, belongs to them.

The rest of the day though, is not so simple. Math and social studies are not so easy for the students to own the instruction. How do you own a multiplication problem or a fraction? Sure, you can own individual problems that you create, but how can students own an idea which is an algorithm. In social studies students read and learn about the past. How can they own something that they didn't have a chance to influence. Sure, it effects them today, but how can students own facts about the Civil War or Ancient Egypt? I think that if we as teachers can find a way (and something tells me there are teachers out there who already have) for students to own their lessons in math and social studies along with all of their other subjects, that students will become more engaged in these lessons and hopefully learn more as a result.

1 comment:

Anne said...

How much ownership means to students has really come through loud and clear through blogging with students. Choice is always top on their list.

Check out Darren Kuropatawa's math blogs to see how he has effectively given his students ownership of their learning.

In social studies students can own their learning as they make connections - learn from the past for the future. Do you think they could have ownership in social studies with a project similar to the one you mentioned on science?

I really like how you are open to change - a trait most needed by teachers. Keep up the good blogging! And that wonderful openness to change....