Sunday, August 7, 2016

Super Hero City LAUNCHed Me Into Design Thinking

 Teacher JOY!  

Students begging to be given MORE time to work on a project during the last week of school. This was our classroom reality due entirely to my year of being brave AND this book, LAUNCH . One week after getting the book and one of the authors, Juliani, generously giving me the videos that most have to pay for, I went for it!

Closed set of boxes at the front of class with a sign that stated, DO NOT OPEN, was the first step - my idea to get the students energerized to keep on learning and growing to the very last moment.  It was out for a day and the students were chomping at the bit.  On Day 1 we completed the first four steps and got started on the fifth part of the LAUNCH cycle.

Each student got a packet and then we watched the Super Hero City video - the Look, Listen, and Learn part of the cycle. The Seat Selector (yes, that is one of our classroom jobs I got from Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz (#LearnLAP).  There were oohhs and ahhs during the video and then hands shot up because their imagination engine had been ignited.  Next came the Ask Tons of Questions phase - there were a ton and usually my answer was, "It's your Super Hero City, you decide."  As predicted the students were anxious to begin building, but first each individually begin thinking about their Super Hero City - what was it going to look like, who were their super heroes, what were their powers, who were their arch-enemy.  I always use a timer because it builds in focus.

Then they shared their ideas as a group with one person facilitating the discussion, so that all got an opportunity (Another wonderful idea from #LearnLAP).  EVERYONE shared, trust me, this project is a sure-fire winner in student engagement.  At this time they were fluctuating between the Understanding the Process and Navigating Ideas.

Now is was time to open the box to actually begin see how they would use the materials - it was time for Create a Prototype ON PAPER, though most started to see how they could manipulate the materials.  What I loved about this phase is that the students all were contributing to the creation, there was so much collaborative discussion - asking questions of one another, when a solution couldn't be reached than Rock-Paper-Scissoring, but most importantly they were respectful of each others' opinion and knew that a consensus had to be reached within the group.  During this time, I looked over each prototype - asked the purpose of the buildings, name of the city, kinds of super heroes - really just checking in.

Day 2 was all about using their materials and actually Creating a Prototype of their Super Hero City and at the end an individual and then a group reflection - the Highlight and Fix part of the cycle. Of everything that is awesome in this kind of teaching, it is the reflection that the students found the most beneficial.  The many design failures causes the students to focus on what was working while fixing what wasn't working, YET.  Some ideas were scrapped, but most were revised with lots of additions.

Day 3 was the last day of creation.  Some finished early and designed super heroes, others discussed their super heroes and/or villians' personas and abilities/weaknesses.

Day 4 was the Launch to an Audience phase - due to time constraints it was an in class presentation.  I created a rubric of what they needed to review in their presentation and ensured that all would be speaking about at least one phase of the project.

At the conclusion of the presentation, each student completed a self-evaluation reflection and then we discussed a a class what worked, what had to be worked through, the value they found in this project (all wanted to know why we hadn't done something like this before), the problems that had to be worked through in all aspects and a few even mentioned that they were glad that they had had to practice collaborative discourse throughout the year.  ALL mentioned the need for PATIENCE.

Though I'm moving up to middle school and will be teaching Social Studies, I plan on using this design thinking methodology when my students are creating projects.  The most powerful take-away of this book, LAUNCH by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani was the built in reflection piece throughout the design-thinking phases.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Fire for Doodling

I am ON FIRE for all the connections that are happening in my brain.  One after another idea is igniting the flame to burst into a full on fire of imagination and possibilities.  

Growth Mindset
Design Thinking 
Student-led classroom
Collaborative Conversations
Now, I'm to doodle my lessons
and I can't draw a stick figure to save my life?????

All of this year's PD is colliding into a MEGA-Moment of WOW!
My pedagogy of teaching continues to be rocked and that is a good thing!

Let me explain.  Earlier today I left a very creative professional development training through Opportunity Schools ( in which the speaker, Jon Pearson (, inspired me to use drawing in every subject.  You must understand.  My stick figures are challenging for even me to decipher.  
However, Jon STRONGLY believes that these so called limitation are actually assets.  Say, what? 

According to Jon, my lack of skill will encourage my students to try because seriously, the bar won't be high for them to reach.  I am giving them permission to "fail" publicly but in a safe place, my classroom.  I've already been practicing this failure idea with gusto this year by daring to be brave in so many areas of my teaching that after my initial first flutter of discomfort, I went for it. So drawing is now going to be a part of my teaching tool kit.  

Jon believes that teachers AND students should draw often, happily, and playfully because.....

The better you can see it, 
the better you can say it, 
the better you can write it, 
the better you can read it.

STOP, go back and read that again.  

If your students can see a picture of what they are learning in their head, they have probably connected with it emotionally in some way, which means there is a much greater chance that they are going to not only be able to recall the information, but on a deeper level make connections, and that is one of my main goals in education.  Making learning personal and contagious!

More on the connections to come!