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Teachers, Make Classroom Learning an Experience

If you're a pirate teacher, then you already know that making learning an experience is sure to lead to deeper learning.

As teachers, it must be our goal to empower students to really embrace their own learning experiences by offering them opportunities to immerse themselves in the content while practicing the necessary skills.

Today in my classroom was #eduawesome.

Because I've done this project before (revising and tweaking each year), it has become a really exciting prospect to see what students do with what they're given.

In our first attempt to shift from what to how, exploring author's craft, my students were asked to rewrite a chapter of Animal Farm by George Orwell.

Here's what the assignment asks them to do:

  • Review the assigned chapter in their groups, to ensure understanding of the text

  • Determine meaning and author's tone

  • Develop a script for performance of a talk show that is appropriate for the content of their chapter

  • Lead a discussion in class and backchannelled on Twitter #WJPSaplit

Meeting with each group as they prepare to present, I get a good feeling for the approach each group will take. Without giving them too much direction, I allow students to make choices that really show their understanding of author's craft. They are afforded two class periods (and a weekend) to work on the scripts.

Then it's presentation time and today was no disappointment.

When students truly understand the satire, what they come up with is an experience they will never forget. Students watched classmates re-enact chapter 4 today as a segment from Dr. Phil, an intervention between the animals and humans. It was truly brilliant getting to the heart of what the chapter espoused and more importantly Orwell's intended message through characterization.

Sure, I could have had them mine the text and write a double-entry journal, but that wouldn't have been successful. Instead, we had laughter, a lot of it and the kids won't soon forget the clever interpretation of their classmates' chapter.

"By having reenactments it allows us to follow the story of the book, remember the history and then interpret it in a way that is easy for the readers to understand," senior Michelle Psaltakis said.

Students want to learn; this is a fact. The challenge comes when we force students to passively take their learning in like bad medicine. With a few small tweaks, we can be providing students with amazing learning experiences where they are walking away from class awestruck and excited to return.

The traditional classroom where we read a text together and then have a teacher-led or 2-3 student-led discussion doesn't make memories. Give students opportunities to commit their learning to nostalgic impactful moments that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

How can you bring excitement to your classroom? What experiences do you create for students? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in October 2014.

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