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I gave my students an independent assignment. With this project, they had no limitations. They had to research for ideas, materials and how to. One student went off running with this project. she decided to to a collaborative project, including over 100 people.
She got the inspiration from a song.
Here is her process:
She decided to find out what love is to people of all ages. So, she cut 3″x3″ squares and passed these squares out to people ages 4-100. She asked them all to draw or..illustrate what love was to them. There were no rules to this. She told them they could use photographs, magazines, or whatever they wanted to express what love was to them.
The results were wonderful. In the end, she ended up with an 8’x8′ piece of art that we displayed in the schools cafe’.

Last week at our CIG meeting we shared where we are with the development of our projects. It was really helpful to hear how things have progressed for each member and to consider how we will present on May 18th. It seems that we all had a vision at the beginning of our project, but there have been some necessary course corrections along the way. The April meeting was definitely one of the most productive, yet.

My new group of students are – shall we say, challenging. When I saw the group I was working with, I thought twice about my planned project. When I did, I decided to approach it in a different way. Instead of saying, “This is what you are going to do,” I said, “I think we should cheat on the social studies project.” Their response was immediate – they were actually paying attention!

Every year the 7th graders have to make and present a project about an assigned memorial or museum in Washington DC. Some of the students don’t get to go on the field trip to DC, so they get very resentful about doing a project on the subject. Often, they fail the 9 weeks because of their refusal to do the exploration project that is to be completed at home. So, I decided that this would be my inquiry project. I would give them the tools, they would research and make the project in collaboration.

I gave them examples of different applications on the iPad, different web tools, and examples of ways to present. They have been going fool tilt ever since. They have found ways to use the tools that I did not know existed, of course, so I am learning from them. Yeah!


iPad – PuppetPals HD comic life, Popplet, Kromath3


Popplet, Moviemaker


My students are working on their second collaborative project for this school year. We learned so much from the first project and the student feedback, especially about having time to collaborate. Students wanted independence in their first project and said they wanted to work out their own communication. Their feedback after the Holiday Concert was that I was hard to coordinate time with each other amidst their busy schedules. They still got the tasks complete but with difficulty. For our second collaborative project, I secured time from my administration for student collaborative meetings. This has taken some of the pressure off my students and made it somewhat easier to accomplish tasks, work together and communicate. Students have commented that it is easier to accomplish tasks because of the facilitated meeting times.

Tomorrow will mark a first for members of the junior class at Peters Township High School. More than 375 juniors will be appear to present their graduation projects. Until now all students selected one of the many projects they do during their high school years and it served as their official graduation project. This change in process has created apprehension and frustration for the students. It has also created an evolution in the thinking of the team of collaborators who have guided the implementation of this new process. That team of teachers and administrators should be commended for staying strong against great criticism and they are to be praised for their amazing skills at organizing every detail to bring this experience to this first milestone. The entire HS staff has been preparing the juniors for “Tell Your Story” with mentoring sessions, career fairs, career research and a variety of inquiry opportunities. In January, the staff read essays about the students research and graded them using a rubric. We read in committees of the three. I read twenty-eight essays in two after school meetings. Tomorrow, there will be four teachers on each panel and every K-12 teacher and all administrators in the school district will be evaluating the presentations which are to be 10 to 15 minutes in length. A rubric has been created for the event and presentation skills are strongly emphasized. Being big on performance, I am looking forward to hearing about the career inquiries of the students and I am anxious to see how they demonstrate their independence. I know that there will be students who will experience “performance anxiety.” This experience is about individual inquiry and will be all about independence and practice, my CIG’s topics for this year and from last year! Notes to follow after the event…

Next day-following project presentations: We heard 7 presentations today and they were all good. In regard to independence, the students were all well-prepared and some were well rehearsed while others could have used more practice. All adhered to the requirements as outlined in the rubric. Independence based on the depth of understanding of the research that was conducted was definitely evident in one presentation. This student did not use note cards as prompts and unfortunately the powerpoint aid he had planned to use would not open. So he asked for a copy of the rubric and proceeded to reconstruct his presentation. Though visibly a little bit rattled, he moved forward relating his journey and citing supportive data that met the requirements on the rubric. It is interesting to note that this student is a musician who is also active in theater. He definitely demonstrated poise under pressure…poise that reflected a significant level of independence.

Hard to believe that it is already April! I have been silent from this blog because of the intense schedule of the month of March while preparing for the annual HS musical. We completed three performances of “Legally Blonde, the Musical.” For all of the years I have conducted the show (this was number 28) the decision was always one of collaboration with the drama teacher, the choral/vocal director, the choreographer and the orchestra director. When this show came to the table as an option I “objected” and so did the choral director, but we were both “overruled!” We had numerous concerns ranging from the mature content to technical issues involving the score and the extreme vocal demands.

But collaboration involves compromise…so we compromised! The process began to first make this “PG 21” show “high-school appropriate” and overcome many musical challenges including the need to make it orchestra friendly. It is driven by the three keyboard books, and a guitar, with occasional snippets thrown to the clarinets or violins. We had to hire two pianists and a professional guitar player because none of our students could even begin to deal with technical figures in these books. The orchestration leaves much to be desired as the nature of the music is not artistic, but commercial. The vocal parts were very taxing on the young voices and several rehearsals ended with panic and tears as the students on stage attempted to stretch into the parts. Now that it is over, I have to say that I am very proud of the members of the orchestra for their extreme “professionalism” as they sat night after night while we worked with the cast to reach that bond of common trust where the actors, dancers, singers and orchestra actually feel comfortable, allowing us to achieve that “seamlessness” that engages the audience. I realize that that comfort is actually a degree of independence where there is also adaptability, so that when things go wrong on stage, there is enough of a depth of understanding that there can be recovery. This show was definitely a huge stretch for all, technically demanding and great physical workout for the conductor…only 6 minutes of dialogue in entire two and a half hours. So, now that it is over, I realize that the bond of trust that evolved through rehearsals, created that sense of entrainment that cemented all involved in a common collaboration. We did achieve that seamlessness and the audience (though sometimes a bit surprised by the content) responded to the quality of the students efforts with standing ovations each night.

At this point I think I have come full circle to that first blog entry I wrote about respect and trust. This company experienced success because of the level of respect and the bond of trust that developed throughout the course of staging this extra-curricular activity. The quality of the process and resulting product was experienced was more valuable to the participants than the issues that surrounded the choice of show.

I just found a great article with ideas and apps for assessments.

Check out Kathy’s  guide to Everything! I’ve copied the page relating to iPads in the classroom, but she really has everything you could possibly need to get started on anything here.

So, Are They Really Learning?

So, I think they are learning, but how do we evaluate this? I’m really looking for understanding of plot, character, setting, and literary devises. How about comparing Romeo and Juliet to a more modern take off? I decided to have them view West Side Story. While watching, they fill out a comparison analysis sheet. It is very simple, lists of the characters of Romeo and Juliet, the setting, and main plot ideas. All they have to do is put the comparison down next to it. Example – Romeo is now Tony. Verona is now the streets of New York City. Now the Independent learning part – They are heading up the discussion during the movie – they are arguing about who is who and why they should believe them. They are providing the proof from plot ideas, character analysis! Oh, yeah! They even started discussing the slang used in the 60’s like the difficult language of Shakespeare and what it means today. Of course, there are still a couple of stars that don’t want to play with us, but the rest are finally ignoring them and pushing on with what they want to do. Now, to push the independent learning further – what next for these last couple of weeks of the 9 weeks???

Do You See the Light?

Well, I think I do see the light at the end of this very long tunnel! Acting out Romeo and Juliet was pretty traumatic for some of the students. Of course it is difficult to read, especially if you have a hard time reading on grade level. But, we pushed on with my 4 stars refusing to shine. Once we read through it once, and I was sure they understood the plot, we moved on to video. This gave the students who refused to participate so far a chance to actually do something. I offered to let them do the taping. I purchased a new ipad tripod mount and this let more students see what was actually being taped.

As we continued, I added the green screen technology with the Kromath3 app. Now the kids were dying to see how they looked in the camera. I was getting more and more participation.  We would review the “daily’s” and the students would self evaluate – and discuss how things could improve.   More actors were giving it some character and increased volume. They were beginning to come up with ideas for new backgrounds for the green screen! Yeah – they cared about learning!

September 2020

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