Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Immigration Project Launch

Today was the project launch for the statistics unit. And my mind was blown.

For this project students will look at claims about issues related to immigration. Eventually, students will develop their own claim about an immigration related issue, they will use statistical evidence to support their claim, and thus offer a counter narrative to an immigration related issue.

Students will create a presentation (poster) to share with staff and district admin at a semi-public event.

This is the first time I've taught statistics using Project Based Learning.

This is for a high school algebra 1 class for English Language Learners (EL). I think there are 7 different languages represented by students in the class, though the majority speak Spanish.

Note: I've already done a few weeks of language production and some univariate and bivariate statistics in the weeks leading up to the project launch. English is not the first language for my students,  thus I wanted spend time doing explicit language production (more than just vocabulary) before we started the project. There are a few posts about the preproject language production and lessons. The language production was great. Some of the lessons did not go as planned!

Project Launch

I used a Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to structure the project launch. 

After a lot of thought and talking with friends, I decided to use a video of the president at a news conference from January answering questions about immigration, DACA, the wall, the visa lottery, etc. The video is about two minutes long, but I didn't show the last 30 seconds.

Before I showed the video, I did a few things. First, I changed the seating arrangement. My classroom has a screen at the front. The students and I moved the desks into a U shape, with the open part facing the screen.

Then, I put the students in language alike groups of 3 or 4. I NEVER do this!! I always make sure groups are mixed language (as much as I can...the majority speak Spanish). But, today, I felt like I wanted them to process in their first language since the material was emotional and intense.

Note: I have two levels of EL students in my class. Level 1 speak little to no English. Level 2 speaks some academic English and can speak decent conversational English. Since I have so many different languages in the room, I had two "speak English" groups since they were high Level 2 and mixed first language. However, the students in that group translated back and forth. 

After we moved desks and got into groups, I told them I was nervous and I had something really important to share with them. I was going to show them a video that had several claims about immigration. I wanted to show them the video because we are going to using statistics to analyze claims about immigration. Then, I told them the video was of the president. They had two questions. First, a Spanish speaking student wanted to know if the video be in Spanish or English. I told her English, though I had also printed out a few of the claims from the video and those were also in Spanish. The other question was if this video was from before of after the election. I thought that was interesting.

I showed the video. Then gave each group a piece of paper with three of claims from the video. 

My bilingual paraeducator translated the claims into Spanish. I asked the students if they had any questions. They did. A few students wanted to know about DACA and the lottery. So we defined those (with lots of help from the students). 

I told them we were going to watch the video again. But this time I wanted them to really think about questions they have as they watch the video. I showed the video again. Then I gave each group a sheet of butcher paper and showed the students this slide. 

We went over the rules. I set a ten minute timer and told them to start writing questions. This is when my mind was blown. Actually, for the entire next hour my mind was blown. But it started here.

I was expecting to have to prompt them to keep writing questions. It was the opposite. After 10 minutes I asked them to stop. Then I asked again. Then I waited a minute and asked again. Finally, the last student stopped writing her question. And every eye was on me. 

At that moment the feeling in the room was electric. This is my 6th year teaching. I've done a lot of decent groupwork math tasks, fun review activities, discovery lessons, data collection, etc. I've never felt what I felt today. The students had taken complete ownership of this process. And they recognized my role at the moment was only facilitator. Thus, they let me know when they were ready to move on, not the other way around. And I was ok with that!

I showed them this slide and quickly explained open-ended v closed-ended questions. 

I thought it would take them at least five minutes. Most groups were done and ready to move on in 2 minutes. 

Next, I told them to prioritize their top three questions. They enthusiastically began debating. I gave them about 5 minutes go decide on top 3. Next I did a whip around and each group shared 1 question. I wrote each question on the board (I'm grateful for the translation help from the para). As groups shared a 2nd time, we started to clump the questions together. Same for round 3. 

Here is one place I put in a hidden level of teacher control in what was otherwise almost entirely student driven: I had done some pre-research and knew what I could easily find data on and what I couldn't...thus I did a bit of negotiating with them to get things in the groups I had preset in my mind which were (broadly) crime, the wall, immigration policy, and the economy. However, I didn't expect DACA at all and certainly not to be so present, but it felt too important to them to not have it represented as its own group. I think I can find enough data on that. 

The other broad categories we came up with besides DACA were: the wall, immigration security (visa lottery, breaking up families, hate crime), crime/drugs, and war. The war topic made me feel really sad. I never would think my students might believe that the consequences of inequality and immigration would be war.

My mind was still being blown at this point. And then the bell rang. Wow. 

In this 70 minute QFT I learned more about my students that in the last 18 weeks of our normal routine. I got to know the students as more than just my math students. They shared their perspective by asking critical questions about immigration in our country. They got to share their knowledge with me (I'll admit...they corrected my misconceptions about DACA and the lottery). In that moment they had the authority to question everything. And the result was a rich bank of topics that we will use as the starting point for our next lesson on Friday. 

In Friday's lesson, students will rank their preference from one of the 4 big topics: DACA, wall, 
security, or drugs/crime (I took out war...not sure what data I can find). I will use that info to form groups. And then groups will begin to draft their claim. We will also start to look at correlation and causation. 

I Was Afraid

I was so afraid to teach this lesson. First, math class is not the place we usually discuss controversial topics (at least not in my math class...). So I was nervous about moving in to new territory. 

I was also afraid about doing QFT with the EL students. Why? I wasn't sure if language would be a barrier. I wasn't sure if they would take it serious. I wasn't sure we would come up with the kind of questions that would be helpful to start this project.

In hindsight, I feel like a jerk for having low expectations of the students. Language was not an issue during the QFT process. The students took it more serious that anything we've ever done. And their questions were beyond amazing. I can't wait to see how the next lesson goes. More to come. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for writing about this! I can't wait to hear more!


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