We're doing a unit on non-fiction right now. It's a bit of a blah subject, but my girls have very limited grasp of world history so I've decided to broaden their horizons on two fronts with this project I introduced today. They're going to be doing research, and learning about world history at the same time.
I've given them a choice of 6 topics and they're going to have to research and create a little info booklet about the topic of their choice. I've specifically chosen topics about famous tourist attractions in places that I know most of them vacation. I chose the research topics banking on the fact that despite their annual visits to some of these places, my girls have never seen the iconic landmarks I've selected for this project.
These girls regularly spend holidays in Paris, London, and Rome. But if you ask any of them if they've seen the Louvre, the Tower of London, or the Colosseum, they'll look at you with a blank stare. They go shopping when they travel, and have no idea the treasures that are probably just around the corner from the hotel where they're staying.
The topics I've selected are relatively well known: Alcatraz Island, the Colosseum, the Catacombs of Paris, the Terracotta Army, and others. I did a little pre-test to see how much they knew about these things with today's bellringer: What do you know about Alcatraz Island?
The resounding answer was, "It's an island."
I'd created a little powerpoint presentation with just the most basic facts of the topics they have to select from, and I presented today. I hoped they would be intrigued by what they heard, but I did not expect the reactions I got.
At one point my classroom was in a total uproar, but not in a bad way. I was talking about Alcatraz Island and the Anglin-Morris escape of 1962 and the reactions of the girls who were actually listening prompted the more ADD-prone girls to ask, "Eysh? Eysh? [what? what?]." So while I was answering questions for the girls closest to me, the girls in the back of the room were recounting what I'd just said to those who weren't really listening in the first place.
(It as a super squirrelly day for this bunch, so I'd decided to go with the shock-and-awe approach in hopes of keeping most of the attention spans on what I'd had to say. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to have the attention of everyone in the class, so I was pleased that their constant chatter was about the topics at hand, as opposed to their weekend plans.)
I seriously walked out of my classroom on an endorphine high. Mind-blowing moments like these are the stuff teachers live for, and I got 40 full minutes of it today.
I certainly hope the energy keeps up through the research process.