Monday, May 2, 2011

Off topic today

I really missed the classroom today. I was sitting in the first day of three days of Project Based Learning training. It was good training and I have been looking forward to it, but the death of Osama Bin Laden was what I longed to be discussing. I saw a tweet about a guy who unknowingly live-tweeted the attack. I was fascinated by this story and was reading his timeline when the instructor asked us to focus by closing our laptops. It was really hard for me to oblige. It was also hard for me to concentrate on the topics all day.

What I really wanted to do today was discuss the history behind Osama and terrorism. I wanted to set aside lesson plans and talk about the results of this event in the U.S. but more particularly abroad. I would have loved to talk to students about what they think the reactions will be in the Middle East, the role of Pakistan in all of this, and the decision to bury Osama at sea. I wanted to show students how to use social media to track what is going on in other parts of the world and how they can learn from the primary sources themselves.

Today was a social studies teacher's dream. Students automatically coming to class wanting to talk about your subject (its like a weatherman during a giant storm) These opportunities don't happen everyday and don't last. I missed the classroom today, but I can't wait until next year!

But it always comes back to students for me. How many times is the lesson that we have prepared not what students need for that day? Maybe because of personal issues at home their mind is elsewhere or maybe they are really interested in learning something different. We rarely give students options to steer their learning. The least we can do is to be flexible to give space to discuss current events.


  1. Any tips you can pass on on project based learning? I'm a math teacher and I'm going to be teaching on a block schedule next year. No way can I lecture for 90 minutes -- their brains would leak out their ears :p

  2. I have been asking myself this question a lot lately too: How many times is the lesson that we have prepared not what students need for that day?

    I think it is more often than we think. What to do about it is a much larger question.

  3. @Meg I would check out the Buck Institute site for resources: This place especially helps with how to set up a structure PBL. I also would search the hashtag #WCYDWT (what can you do with this)for math ideas. I also know that Sam Shah has developed a site of ideas for high school math classes that many teachers have contributed to.


    Good question about what to do about it? Doesn't PBL at least lend itself to allowing students to explore their own learning that is related to the core content but may be individualized?

    I also am not afraid to go off on "rabbit trails" if students are interested and their is a learning point to them