Prompted by a post by John Spencer, I knew I wanted to end 2017 in an engaging way. In my Spanish 2 classes, I had the perfect opportunity to have a week and a half open for a Wonder Week/Genius Hour type activity. All semester I’ve been focused on creating authentic opportunities for students to be creators and architects of their own learning. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to execute it. In fact, I had back up Spanish 2 lesson plans sketched out because I didn’t know if this was going to go anywhere.
Now that I’m staring at the results and reflecting on the process, I can share with you our journey and how valuable a time it was.
Una Semana de Maravilla: The Journey of Wonder Week
Day One: Curiosities
I had spent a lot of time looking through Laura Sexton’s reflections on Genius Hour and felt that the the most important part was to do a strong introduction and hook to generate some ideas and spark passion. Based on some of Laura’s prompts and our own unit on entertainment we just finished, I created a PearDeck where the students had to DRAW their responses to some questions. I only have them 3 minutes and then we discussed (and circled with PQA) some of the student responses. We got some good repetition and a fun discussion.
As I started to slide into the investigation project, we watched a TED talk and a few other clips I had seen from a PL class I took with George Curous. The idea here was to show them possibilities that young people can do and to inspire them.
I gave students a brainstorming sheet with some sentence starters that we would refer to for the next week. Their brainstorming assignment was in English and I wanted them to think of three topics or categories that interest them and think of questions that they have about each of these topics.
This was a very full Day One. If I had it to do over again, I would split it into two days. The CI we got from the PearDeck was super valuable and I could have spent a class period on that alone—-probably should have. I definitely cut us off short so that I could intro the brainstorming.
Day Two: Questions
I brought us back on Day Two with a pep talk from Kid President on changing the world. They somewhat laughed at my suggestion that they could change the world but couldn’t argue when I said it was possible.
Around the room I had 10-12 large posters with topics written on them: Art, Technology, Sports, Human Relationships etc. Then I gave them 10 minutes to walk around and write and brainstorm questions they can related to these topics. At first they weren’t sure but seeing other people’s questions on different posters really launched them into thinking of more questions. I had two empty posters with no category and students were encouraged to think of questions that wouldn’t fall into any category there too. By the time my three classes were done, they generated nearly 180 questions on a wide variety of topics.
We discussed how all learning begins with questioning. Their task today was to think of something they want to investigate and come up with THREE questions they are curious to know the answers how.
Foreign language confession: at this point I break from the target language. The questioning done today and the investigation to follow is all in English. Perhaps a breach of FL “best practice” but I shifted my focus to general “learning” for this portion of the project and would pick up FL for the reflections at the end.
Students submitted their three (or more!) questions to me in classroom and I responded by asking at least 3 more questions related to their questions. This was 1) my attempt to guide some students that I knew were going to get stuck, 2) expand the focus of students looking only for basic information and 3) show my natural curiosity in their investigation.
Their homework was to #neverstoplearning about their topic for the next 48 hours. They would ask me questions about “How should we answers? Do you want us to write things down?” and my answer was the same: I want you to learn for the next 48 hours. Whatever that means to you—-just never stop learning. If you think you are done—you are not. Keep investigating for 48 hours. Some did not like this response but it was one of the most valuable things I think I did to encourage them in their investigations.
Day Three & Four: Investigation
I was gone on a professional day so students had freedom to explore and learn. While I wasn’t in the classroom, they were sharing their insights with me through classroom. I asked them to fill me in on the process and this was a rewarding day. To hear from them during the inquiry process was great. There were a lot of discoveries and surprises and I was eager to wrap this up with them and let them share their learning.
Day Five: Yo Tengo Maravilla Presentation
Welcome back to the target language! Remember those sentence starters and phrases I introduced a while back. Well, today it was time to put those into practice. We had a quick informal sharing of our topic information in the target language and then I shared a presentation template with the students.
Based on their research, I wanted them to generate a list of 10 vocabulary words associated with their learning, one phrase that shares their wondering, one phrase of what they learned and one personal reflection about the project and/or their learning. Within the presentation they could also use English for supportive details and extra information.
This was a great guide and I’m happy with the FL tie-in. It is not much but my goal is to increase their familiarity with these reflective phrase starters so this was a good way to accomplish that. The vocabulary I thought was important and it had two unforeseen benefits. One, we had a discussion about proper use of translators and dictionaries and how to use them. I said that obviously they were going to need to look things up but wanted them to do so responsibly. This gave me the opportunity to teach them how to do this.
Secondly, I was surprised how the personal vocabulary really helped the students build their own skills. The day before break we did a non-wonder-week related game about our “Palabra Más Impresionante” (the vocab word we are most impressed that we know) and a few students used these vocabulary words as their example. And they were words that I didn’t know (I’m not up to date on my fishing and lure terminology) but these kids were able to use the vocabulary correctly. Very impressive moment for me.
Final Day: Sharing
We were up against a holiday break but I know that it’s important for the students to share their information. I wanted this to be shared with other teachers since it is such a cross-curriculum activity, so I had them record their investigative experience in English in a FlipGrid.
I love FlipGrid because you get to hear the reflections of the students in their own words. You can reply and share with a global audience. All learning should be shared with a global audience and I’m happy to share ours with you. If you have a moment, please listen to what they learned and share feedback.
If I were to do it again, I would do something bigger as a sharing component. I wanted to do a gallery walk in Spanish with those presentations and maybe a small group IPA/speed dating activity.
I think that I will do something similar again at the end of the year or maybe 3rd Quarter and then I’ll be able to use some more of these ideas. In the meantime I’m really grateful that I didn’t have to resort to my back up plans and instead had an engaging and meaningful end of 2017 with my Spanish 2 class.