Thanks to the power of social media, the strong community of #worldgeochat, and the (sometimes) beauty of professional development, this year I’ve been exposed to a variety of new, engaging and fascinating ways of helping students reach content and apply skills and knowledge. Being in social studies (a class that’s not assessed through standardized testing) we have the beauty of being a little more flexible in our content and our techniques. An additional bonus for me at my school, world geography is an in-between year. Meaning (bluntly) we aren’t technically preparing students for 8th grade content, which begins with the Fall of Rome and up.
I mention all the above because this year, I’ve been able to branch out and include things in my classroom without risk of losing time on content since I was testing things out. Students have appreciated being my “guinea pigs,” and 7th graders are some of the most honest humans ever. They’ll tell you when things work and when they don’t.
Here’s just a brief list of activities I’ve tried this year and have seen success in:
- Mystery Skype (see last week’s post)
- Sounds Around (created by the brilliant Jason Baker!)
I’m also becoming a huge fan of the PIRATE series, founded by Dave Burgess and his wife Shelley. I recently took an activity from Quinn Rollins’ “PLAY like a PIRATE,” and oh my goodness! The support and the ideas began to flow!
I shared my Superhero activity online through Twitter and tagged Quinn in the post as well as the worldgeochat hashtag. What began as an extended learning activity grew into a whole new project (in the works for next year!).
The guidelines were that students had to create a superhero based off of a landform, climate zone or vegetation zone. The superpower? What they would PROVIDE for humans. Our focus in world geography at the moment is how physical geography shapes human geography.
We had multiple “Mountain Man”s and “River Goddesses,” but students truly pushed themselves to create the best superhero they could. Some students asked if they could create villains (Deadly Drought!). SURE! WHY NOT! Go crazy!! This activity was the most engaged that I had seen students (outside of some of the activities listed above).
I never would have discovered Quinn’s “Play like a Pirate” if it hadn’t been for social media. The idea of taking this extended learning activity and creating a “March Madness” bracket, with the idea of the winner being where most humans settle, DEFINITELY wouldn’t have happened without the power of social media. Playing (and learning and exploring and teaching) like a pirate has definitely changed the way I look at the techniques used in the classroom. My summer project (and it’s a big one) is to explore my standards and change the way they’re taught and explored. If my students were engaged in simple “extended learning” activity, I can only imagine how they would be throughout the whole year.
What has been some of the more engaging lessons in your classroom? Have you played like a pirate yet? Which activities have proven the most successful and why?