Cyclical Learning

Alzar School | 14.05.14

My memories of English (and all my courses) in a public high school were of learning, often memorizing facts, and regurgitating. I had little to no big picture sense of WHY we were studying these topics or HOW they would help me grow as a thoughtful individual. This is my mission as an educator. At the Alzar School, we have a chance to do something remarkable. We have the chance to build rigorous academic classes that don’t only teach to the state and national standards, but classes that also link students directly, personally to the material they are studying, and to their world around them both domestically and abroad. They also have the chance to become leaders of their peers and, perhaps most importantly, of their own lives and learning. Ways that I encourage my students to take ownership over their learning include using assignment rubrics to peer review each others’ essays, completing self-assessments using a visual annotation app that tracks an entire Harkness discussion and each student’s participation, and by providing them opportunities to write about their experiences and their growth – the topics that matter in their worlds.

In hopes of encouraging my students to CONTINUE exercising their metacognitive skills, to keep analyzing the parts and synthesizing for the whole picture, each student creates two culminating projects at the end of the semester for English class.

The first is a digital presentation using the app Educreations, which allows one to verbally and visually annotate their work and record the presentation. To reflect on their growth, students picked a “growth” piece (the one needing the most work) and a “showcase” piece (the one showcasing their improvement) for each skill category of the course (Harkness/communication, annotation/close reading, writing and organization). They used rubrics and direct writing samples to support their “argument of growth.” The results are pretty astounding. It is so inspiring to see young people able to articulate not simply that they have improved but HOW specifically and WHY these skills are important and transferable to their academics and lives back home.

Watch the samples below of student Educreation presentations!

The final assessment is a Demonstration of Learning speech, in which students similarly synthesize their skills but this time in order to deliver a dynamic presentation to their peers and faculty about their growth through the lens of one Habit of Mind.┬áToday students are using the rubric to provide each other with specific reinforcing and constructive feedback, and then they will revise this draft, plan their visual aids and activities, and deliver the presentation on Monday! I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with.