Now it's a bit of an oxymoron for me to say that we will use 21st Century skills while at the Historical Reenactment, but it's actually very true! In addition, we continued our use of 21st Century skills once we arrived back at school as we reflected and synthesized our learning. Here is what I mean.
- In preparation for the event, our students built their background knowledge on the time period and the actors personas by visiting the Historical Reenactment website that our district set up. It's really very good, you should check it out! (Here is the main site: http://access.sd25.org/curriculum/reenactment/ and here is the Personas page: http://access.sd25.org/curriculum/reenactment/personas.html) (Since we haven't started our unit on Revolutionary War yet, my students were really limited in what they knew prior to this event, so this activity helped a lot.)
- 30 minutes prior to arriving at the school, I set a purpose for my students so they would stay focused and attentive. They had to take pictures of the actors and of our classmates at each station. They also had to write down each actor's name and profession so that they could talk about them on their blogs when we return to class. Finally, I asked them to be curious and ask the actors questions, as well as answering questions that are posed to them. (This worked! Our attention was 100% "on" the entire 90 minutes!)
- In order to increase students' excitement and enthusiasm for something with which they had little knowledge of, I let them use our iPads to take pictures, and put them into partnerships to encourage collaboration in regards to taking pictures and jotting down the notes. I directed them to take turns and help each other out. This turned out to be wise, since some students had some trouble with the iPads later when we were emailing our photos to ourselves!
- When our first station was complete, I talked to the class about the importance of looking the speaker in the eyes and thanking them. I feel that it is important to show appreciation for those who volunteer their time or even for our specials teachers and other building staff. Each year, students catch on quickly and are often heard thanking people like the lunch ladies and the recess supervisors much more often than before!
- At one point, my students discovered how fun it was to mess with the actors since they were so good at staying in character! The actors asked if our iPads were "magic slates" or "magic portrait makers!" At that point, my students started asking questions like, "Do you like the Chicago Bears or the Green Bay Packers better?" Of course, the actor continued the charade by saying that doesn't make any sense. My kids found humor in this lesson, and weren't too shy to voice it, and that actually made me very proud. I encourage my students to find the joy and humor in school - we need to take moments to laugh and smile during our long days of learning! I let them do this for a few minutes since everyone had been behaving so well all day (and since the actor didn't seem to mind!), but they were all easily redirected when I pointed out how funny they were, but that we really needed to focus the rest of the time. :)
- Once we arrived back at school, I explained the directions that would enable my students to reflect and synthesize their learning. We would blog about our experience!
- I showed my students how to email the photos they took on the iPads to themselves. Since I am still learning the iPad, and since I don't really understand which emails are blocked on my students' accounts, I was very nervous about this part of the activity. Fortunately, my students know that whenever they can help me, I am always thankful (student-directed learning)! So one of the kids willingly jumped onto a classroom computer and signed into her email account as I used her iPad to email her a picture. Thankfully it worked!
- Another student discovered that although we couldn't email all of our photos as once, it would accept up to four at a time. He shared that with the class and ended up saving all of us quite a bit of time (collaboration)!
- Another partnership couldn't receive any of their pictures on their email account and tried three or four possible solutions to the problem before coming to me (problem-solving and critical thinking)! I was so proud of their efforts! I tried three or four things as well before I learned that doing a "hard shut down" on the iPad was the the right solution!
- Since we used iPads and created blog entries today, this lesson also worked on the skill of applying technology effectively.
My students are finally past the point of thinking 21st Century education is all about using technology! Now they realize that we use technology as we work on all of the bolded, underlined skills above. The technology we use is just what we use to practice our skills! I love hearing them say, "Look Mr. Solarz, we're collaborating!" And, "Mr. Solarz, are we doing a blog entry today to reflect on our learning?" How cool!!! :)