Student: “Miss Capuzzi, can we watch the Wizard of Oz?”

Me: “No.”*


“Wait… why?”

Student: “Because I want to watch it. We can watch it while we work.”

Me: “Hmm… I’ll think about it.”

When I came to IU1 for our CIG meeting Monday, December 19, 2011, I had this conversation in the back of my head. Because I am still a relatively new teacher, I rarely stray from my collection of lesson plans. They are like a security blanket for me. But, I realize that some of my lessons are too cut-and-dry. So, allowing for student suggestions became one of the personal goals I had set for myself this year.

We were about to start our unit on monochromatic painting in 7th grade and usually I set up a holiday-themed still life for students to study value from. I had taught the “Monochromatic Still Life” lesson in the previous semester with average results.

Since a student had showed interest in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, I was trying to make a connection between the black and white world of Dorothy’s bedroom and a monochromatic painting of the student’s bedroom.

David Berlin sat down with our collaborative inquiry group (CIG) and I brought up the idea of incorporating the movie into my class. David proposed a multi-part project where students used their creativity to develop a fantasy world of their own. We talked about only showing the clip where Dorothy leaves her bedroom and enters Munchkinland. Students would create a monochromatic replica of their bedroom (meeting the value objectives I was aiming for) and place a door (separate sheet of paper) that opened to a full color world of wonder.

I loved that idea! For this project, the concept had to be original and we discussed symbolism in class. The students titled the project “My Oz.” And, they really got into it! There was an Oz made entirely of chocolate, one where Christmas lasted all year long, and others filled with student’s favorite things.

[student art coming soon]

I feel that changing this project to suit student interest made a huge difference in the students’ desire to learn something new. They took pride in their work, made important connections with what they were learning, and wanted to share their ideas with the class. They almost didn’t complain about having to paint the “black and white part” because it was so personal for them. I will definitely keep teaching the monochromatic painting lesson this way in the future. Providing more opportunities for choice-based learning is part of the balance I am seeking with this year’s research.

*Note that my immediate response was to say “No.” (I’m trying to change that about myself!) And, in this instance, I’m really glad I didn’t stick with my first answer!!!