We introduced the idea of promoting creativity and curiosity through student-led research and experiments. In parts two and three, students developed guiding questions and created hypotheses for experimenting.
Finally, they are ready to dig into resources, find answers, ask new questions, and report what they’ve learned.
As the teacher, you’ll need to:
Be a guide
You’re facilitating a classroom full of curious kids engaged in self-directed research. This may be your most challenging assignment yet! 🙂 During this time, remember to remain a vigilant guide. Help students stay on track, but don’t nag. Constantly conference with students, but allow them to explore their topics at a natural pace. Above all, keep this time authentically exciting and interesting for your kids.
Provide appropriate and varied resources
Some classroom computers and a printer makes this less of a challenge. Ask students to visit the public library. Since this is difficult for some families, I tell students I’m making a trip to the largest library in the area. Anyone who needs a resource gives me the title and I pick it up for them. Remember that video, audio, interviews, and periodicals are all possibilities.
Keep track of student progress
It’s fine if students move at different rates. Anyone who “finishes” with a topic can present and move on to a new puzzlement. However, it’s probably wise to have a progress chart to monitor the class and be aware of stragglers and rushers. These types of students may need you to help by:
Narrow the scope of overwhelming topics
Students who have stalled out may be overwhelmed by a topic. Help these students to refine their topic to something more manageable. “Who was the best baseball player” could become “Who was the best baseball player from the 1950s.”
Increase the complexity of topics
On the other hand, you may need to increase the complexity of a topic that is being skimmed. The tools of depth and complexity provide an easy way to differentiate in this way.
Modify topics that have lost student interest
If students are losing steam due to lack of interest, either end their topic by pushing them towards a presentation or alter their topic using SCAMPER. A student who feels he has mastered “solar power” may become interested again when solar power is combined with space travel or underwater vehicles.
Encourage student creativity in developing a product
When a topic has reached a natural end, encourage students to present their new knowledge in the most authentic way possible. A student who has researched the evolution of video games shouldn’t read a written report. They should create a multimedia presentation or bring in examples of the evolution. Don’t let the presentation of information become a bland book report. Maintain excitement, interest, and an “I can’t believe I get to do this at school” mentality.
Provide feedback on completed presentations
A simple rubric completed by both student and teacher can serve as feedback on the student’s work. Require students to give a “practice presentation” to you in the beginning to catch incomplete or unsatisfactory products. Since this is a time for students to investigate their own interests, removal from the process can serve as motivation for uncooperative students or those putting in low effort. The more you are able to keep this time fueled by authentic curiosity, the less this will be a problem.