Sunday, January 21, 2018

Immigration Project Day 2

Friday's lesson did not go as well as the project launch. The students did great and were engaged in the work. But parts of the lesson felt rushed. And I'm thinking a lot about how the timing of the unit can affect the level of student choice in the project. Without the choice, they are just making a poster. And without the student choice this isn't a project for social justice. Choice creates passion, empowerment, and allows students to create new ideas.

The Good

Friday classes are about 100 minutes long. So I had a lot of time! I had two goals and I had a very detailed lesson plan to guide me. The learning goal was for students to describe that association between variables is not causation. The project goal was for groups to draft a claim based on the work from Wednesday's project launch. 

I first showed students the work from Wednesday's project launch. I told them to rank their 1st, 2nd and 3rd preference. Once I had that data, I put students into groups based on preference (almost all got their first choice).  This is also an example of balancing student choice and teacher parameters. 

During the lesson, students did outstanding. They were super engaged in the correlation v causation and lurking variable discussions. One female student in particular had several brilliant ideas about a third variable that might affecting an association. However, what blew my mind thought was not what she said, but also how she said it. This student was speaking up and speaking with authority; she was in her risk zone and doing something she doesn't normally do: share her ideas with the class. I like that this lesson let students like her show different ways to be smart.  

For the lesson, we first looked at this graph and discussed the relationship between the variables. 

So many ideas! Some students said yes buying sunglasses caused people to buy ice cream; however, several students, including the female student I mentioned earlier, pointed out it was likely the climate that created a strong (relatively speaking), positive association.

We then looked at the amount of ice cream sold and murder rate scatterplot.

This graph stimulated so many interesting questions. Students first described the trend (using the sentence frame) we've practiced. They identified the variables (they did a great job reading and interpreting the graph!).  Some needed spanish translation, but they could definitely describe the trend and interpret the graph. 

Two boys had lively discussion. One of the boys pointed out that the two variables have nothing to do with each other so clearly one doesn't cause the other. The boy pointed at the graph and explained that the positive trend is evidence of some relationship between the variables--even if they seem unrelated. Again, it was awesome to see students show different ways to be smart. And I was beyond happy they were using the  language we had practiced in class via activities like Vocab Party

We were running out of time and I knew I planned to spiral back to correlation and causation so we ended the discussion. I also got the sense, based on the class discussion participation and partner talk I listened in on, that students were getting it. So we moved on to project work time. 

I first explained the scope of the project. Lots of questions but one surprised me: "Why are we doing this?" I explained that I think they hear claims in the media about immigration that may or may not be true and I wanted to teach them the statistical tools they can use to help them analyze things they see and hear. I also said I was impressed with their work so far and I think they will all have interesting things to share. 

Students got into project groups and we moved on to the project goal, where students would draft a claim they wanted to make about their area of focus. I don't think I taught "how to write a claim" very well...but to start I showed them this slide. 

The slide is my attempt to "think about loud" on my process of writing a claim. I'm not sure how helpful it was...but the students jumped right in and started talking within their groups about their claim. I saved about 25 minutes for this part of the lesson--basically project work time (I had intended to have a little more than that).

Like Wednesday, there was a buzz in the room as students worked on their claims. Based on the level of focus and their body language, I could tell they were serious about this work. Their seriousness also showed in the claims they wrote. I think the work feels relevant, interesting and important to the students. They were having serious discussions and gladly taking all feedback and redrafting their work. The students clearly want to produce a high quality product--another indicator of engagement.  I am fortunate to have a bilingual Spanish paraeducator as support. I also had the help of two amazing bilingual Spanish student tutors. The four of us circulated and gave students feedback. I was also reminding students about correlation and causation.

These are some of the claims they came up with.


There are also a few more I didn't show. There are 7 groups total. I think some claims are good to go--we might tweak the wording down the line, but good enough to start. Some claims need minor revisions. And some need to revise a lot (ex: The president wants to build the wall to stop immigrants from coming to US because of drugs--I'm not sure what data I can find).

The Not Good

Nothing was bad about this lesson. But I have a very ambitious timeline. My goal is to have students present to teachers, admin, district staff in 4 weeks. I have pre taught a lot of the content so that is not the issue. 

I expect the students to produce high quality work. And, based on what I've seen, they WANT to produce high quality work. However, I just finished teaching a PBL unit in my other algebra class. And something I learned in that experience is that the best way to support students in producing high quality work is through the revision/feedback process. And that takes time. 

And so here is what I've been thinking a lot about in the two days since this lesson ended: high quality student projects require revisions/feedback. That is what makes PBL effective--it isn't a one and done demonstration of learning. PBL honors learning as an iterative process where the teacher serves as both the facilitator and guide. But not the intellectual authority.  And this honors student choice. I'm not telling them what to do, I am helping them refine their own ideas.

However, I have a clear timeline for this unit. And so that cuts into the amount of revision/feedback time I have. And the less revision/feedback time, the more "help" they will need from me to complete a high quality project and presentation. And the more "help" I provide, the less student choice there is. Sigh...

The students will NOT make an immigration poster with my help. I've decided that is my non-negotiable in this situation. Students will present their ideas and share their knowledge with the public. If I have to move back the timeline, I will. Or, they might surprise me and the revisions/feedback time I have planned might be sufficient. I am very much taking this day by day and responding to their needs. More to come! 

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