Archive for November 2012

Lesson Creation Multi-tasking

November 1, 2012

I was very fortunate this week to hear Dr. Nelson Coulter’s keynote address at the @LITE for Administrator’s Conference, and event I help to sponsor as Area 8 TCEA director with ESC 8. During his talk, Dr. Coulter showed us the Guthrie Common Schools Graduate Profile.
Of course, the profile includes goals for graduates’ learning, for skills and abilities that will lead to career success. It also lays out clearly defined goals for the character of those graduates, for their personal qualities as leaders and citizens.  You can read the profile here:
Every now and then, you run across something that just endorses something you are already doing. Reading the Guthrie Graduate Profile made me think about some assignments I’ve been doing for a while with my senior Dual-Credit English students. The first essay I assign is about the concept of the hero. Students have to think about three or four important qualities of the hero and develop an idea of the character a true hero should demonstrate. We discuss the difference between someone who shows those qualities on some occasions or even for one event and a hero who displays these qualities continually in his or her home and in society.
Students do online discussions in which they propose and defend what they believe to be the “most important” quality of the hero. Then, in their second essay, they write about a personal hero, someone they know well and who they respect. They have to apply the qualities they have defended in the first essay to the personal hero they have chosen.
In a later project, students create a digital photo essay about the community they grew up in. They have to take 25 pictures that represent the history and atmosphere—morality, work ethic, character—of their town and its people.
These assignments have developed over the years, and I make modifications to them each year as I observe what works, and what might work better. The essays must be well-developed, with a sound thesis, good support, clear descriptions, appropriate exemplification, and reasonable conclusion. I want my students’ writing skills to grow with each project, and this does, in fact, happen. My students leave my course as competent college writers.
The point of my musings on these assignments is this: In many cases, we can help our students grow, not just academically, but emotionally, morally, in character. Many of our students come from rough home backgrounds. They may be lacking a moral compass. They may not be respectful and they may have a very poor work ethic. Why should we give just any writing assignment when we could help them think about how they can become good citizens and caring parents?
And could we apply this idea of adding a moral component, teaching young people to become caring adults in other subjects? I’m not talking about preaching in class or trying to influence our students to become staunch conservatives or good liberals. I’m talking about inculcating qualities that just about everyone can agree on through the work kids do in class.
Could we teach them to be financially responsible in math class? Could we help them become educated, discerning voters in social studies? We certainly need these qualities in our leaders—and we’re educating the leaders of the future now.