…and then? (beta – may be improved later)

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I am always looking for ways to help teachers be more intentional and create deeper learning experiences for their students. Today, through the haze of Bombay Belly, I had an epiphany that may help you in similar learning situations.

Authentic project-based learning is in my humble opinion incompatible with curricular tricks like, Understanding by Design, where an adult determines what a children should know or do and then gives the illusion of freedom while kids strive to match the curriculum author’s expectation.

I view curriculum as the buoy, not the boat and find that a good idea is worth 1,000 benchmarks and standards.

Whether you agree with me or not, please consider my new strategy for encouraging richer classroom learning. I call it, “…and then?”

It goes something like this. Whenever a teacher asks a kid or group of kids to participate in some activity or engage in a project, ask, “..and then?” Try asking yourself, “..and then?” while you teach.

For example, when the kindergarten teacher has every child make a paper turkey or a cardboard clock, ask, “…and then?” This is like an improvisational game that encourages/requires teachers to extend the activity “that much” further.

You ask first graders to invent musical instrument. Rather than being content with the inventions, ask, “…and then?” You might then decide to:

  1. Ask each kid to compose a song to be played on their instrument
  2. Teach their song to a friend to play on their invented instrument
  3. The next day ask the kids to play the song they were taught yesterday from memory
  4. When they can’t remember how, you might ask each “composer” to write down the song so other players can remember it
  5. This leads to the invention of notational forms which can be compared and contrasted for efficacy or efficiency. This invention of notation leads to powerful ideas across multiple disciplines.

I think, “…and then?,” has application at any age and across any subject area.

Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Comments

4 Responses to “…and then? (beta – may be improved later)”
  1. Well done, Gary! It’s those “simple” questions–how? why? what if? and then?–that make it all worthwhile and so very interesting….

  2. I loved the analogy of buoys and boats! I go through the “and then…” process in my workshop designs, but haven’t shared it with the teachers. I will now!

  3. Drew Perkins says:

    PBL without a purpose for the task isn’t high quality PBL and it seems that is what you’re getting at here. In my work with teachers I always push for the Driving Question to include a “how can we do_________” (task) and a “so that_______” (purpose). They might distill it to a more kid friendly version afterwards but it’s vital to have a why for the work their doing that is connected to the audience.

  4. admin says:

    Drew,

    Thanks for your response. I’m not as enthusiastic about driving questions, especially when they presuppose a predicted or predictable outcome. I also don’t wish to burden kids with process questions when it interferes with them DOING something.

    That said, teachers need to be in the business of understanding the thinking of their kids and have the lightning fast skills required to take an activity even deeper than they may have anticipated.

    I actually admire the spirit shared in this article by Constructing Modern Knowledge 2012 guest speaker, Casey Neistat. http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/03/watch-casey-neistat-surf-and-snowboard-in-a-suit.html

    -=Gary