The other day, I heard Swedish pop group Abba’s song “Take a Chance On Me”. Man! That song is an earworm! (You’re WELCOME!!)
It IS one of my favorites, though! I do love the idea of taking a chance, taking a risk with teaching. (takeachance-takeachance-takeachchchance-takeachance)
Do you remember the first time you took a big chance, as a kid or teen? Maybe you tried out for a team or a play? Maybe you asked out a boy or girl? Maybe you tried to start a band or a club or some sort of change in your middle or high school? Maybe you applied for a job or a leadership position?
Remember that nervous feeling when you took that chance? Remember about possibly failing at that try-out or that date-asking or at that office-running?
I think nerves -- and the possibility of failure -- makes many of us do our best. It CAN keep us on our toes, make us play our best game. I wrote the BEST papers in college when I was feeling the pressure and taking a risk (and, admittedly, waiting until the last minute)
Sometimes, in our classrooms, we get too comfortable. We find things that work for US and we use them, over and over again.
But times change. Kids change. Tests change. Job expectations change. New resources and research become available.
And now it’s time to step out of our comfort zones and -- in the words of the wise members of Abba-- take a chance.
In particular, I challenge you to take a new chance in this new year -- with collaboration. Take a chance on some crazy lesson with some out-of-your-comfort-zone-collaboration that you haven’t tried before or that didn’t work they way you wanted it to once before.
Take a chance on ... a thrash-out (or philosophical chairs)
Take a chance on ... a turn and talk
Take a chance on ... an experiential activity
Take a chance on ... any new collaborative structure
Ok, your class could get out of control. Ok, they might not get the lesson.
But if you take a chance they might get a lot more out of that lesson than they do out of a comfort-zone lesson.
Don’t you have lessons that flop sometimes anyway? Like...
- Lessons that you think are awesome but then later all your kids bomb the assessment questions?
- Lessons where you think you’ve got your stuff together but then your kids don’t understand what to do and ask you a bijillion times how to do the task or do it wrong?
- Lessons where you teach about the American Revolution for a week but when the kids come in on Monday, they ask “What’s the American Revolution?”, like they’ve never heard of such a thing?
- Lessons where you are ready to use good technology but then the internet is down?
Sometimes, lessons flop. It happens to all of us.
I can still remember an awesome lesson I did in my class where they kids had to analyze two primary sources in partners and come up with a conclusion about the two. I thought it was awesome, but the primary sources were tougher than I had realized and those sources didn’t address the question well enough and the behavior expectations weren’t clear and THEN the frustrated kids stopped trying and started talking and acting up and .... It was a disaster.
But after I reflected, I realized that if I had better scaffolded the documents (with a few little hints or definitions included for the kids to use), if I had better crafted the question, and if I had explicitly taught the behavior expectations, it would have been awesome.
We don’t live in the pure industrial revolution anymore. Our kids don’t need to be trained to sit quietly in rows for their jobs anymore.
It’s 2015. Our kids need to learn collaboration as a job skill. According to Forbes, most employers want people who can communicate effectively, be team players, make decisions, and work with a team. According to the chart below (from the aforementioned Forbes.com), about half of the job skills employers listed can be practiced in collaborative structures.
If we want kids to think and process and “digest” content, we need to take a chance on collaboration. If we want kids to learn valuable workplace skills, we need to take a chance on collaboration. If we want our kids to better learn and retain our vocabulary, we need to take a chance on collaboration.
Try the thrash-out with your DBQ. Use the experiential exercise with History Alive. Have kids debate. Ask them to turn and talk.
If you change your mind
I’m the first in line (to tell)
take a chance on me
(Sorry. I couldn’t resist)
Take a chance on collaboration.
Please be brave and try a new (risky!) collaborative strategy.I put a few links to some examples above. Check them out -- or email me for help! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!