Summer is a time of later nights, vacations, longer walks, and sunshine. And while all of this is true, every educator we know will spend time over the summer planning for the next school year. Maybe this planning takes place at a picnic table instead of a desk, but it is planning nonetheless.
Often, educators feel overwhelmed by change. Even if one feels like a push toward more authentic learning experiences is a good idea, sometimes not knowing where to start keeps us stuck in our tracks. Take a moment and consider the lesson that kids don’t enjoy learning and honestly, you don’t enjoy teaching. Let’s start there. If you know going into the school year where the challenges will be, let that become your summer planning. You already have amazing lessons that students find engaging and meaningful. Keep them. Let’s focus energy on places that will make the most impact for both you as the teacher and for the students you support.
Consider what might be done to make the learning more authentic, real-world, and relevant to your students. A great place to start is the phase we like to call Investigation - Exploring Possibilities.
Here are some things to get curious about:
Possible project ideas
Identification of global and/or local needs that will be meaningful to students
Possible driving questions
An emotionally engaging entry event that will invite students on the journey with you
Determination of what students need to know and be able to do
Understanding of student’ strengths and interests
Certainly, you cannot know all of these things about students who won’t show up in your life until August, but you can begin to gather strategies for finding this information. How can students share their global or local concerns with you? What topics might drive them to engagement and how will they tell you about them? How can students demonstrate their strengths and interests to you and other authentic audiences? How can you work WITH students to design a project that addresses what they need to know and be able to do and is also driven by their desire to solve a problem or contribute to their community in some way?
After you spend some time planning for the Investigation phase of authentic learning, the Preparation/Planning phase begins. This is when students become “experts.” Students are now hooked to solve/contribute to something that is meaningful to them. Here you open the doors to:
Continued student inquiry and research
Building necessary knowledge and skills
Community partners and mentors that will bring the real world to your students
Facilitating logistics that allows the learning to be authentic
There are many great examples that show us that students will persist in hard work when they are convinced that what they are working toward will make a difference, that it has meaning, and that it is their way of contributing to something greater than themselves. What if you really could take the learning topic that no one likes and turn it into something that engages students? This could be a magical summer of planning.
We offer extensive opportunities for professional learning and real-time coaching around these phases of authentic learning along with Action/Implementation - Becoming Changemakers, Reflection - Attaching Meaning, and Demonstration/Celebration - Making Learning Visible.
Reach out if we can assist you with summertime planning, by visiting our website or emailing us directly at email@example.com. While you’re sitting at that picnic table this summer, you might take a few moments to watch a few examples of kids having fun while working hard: Real World Problem-Solving through Community Projects: Eminence, KY and Cells Gone Wild.