I recently observed in a social studies 6th grade classroom. The lesson that I observed reminded me of the HOPE standard H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. To me, this standard means establishing a community of learning that continues to operate outside the classroom walls and school boundaries. There was a clear learning target posted in the classroom, and discussed in class. The learning target was posted in the form of a purpose statement and was as follows: I will be able to increase my knowledge about the environmental crisis around water, in order to become a more aware global citizen. For this particular week of instruction, the middle school was coordinating their bell schedule with a close by High school in order to come together around the theme of WATER.
For this lesson, the teacher was focusing on the issue of plastic water bottles and their effect on the environment. The teacher used excellent questioning throughout the entirety of this lesson that culminated with a highly engaging and educationally rich snowball activity. The lesson started out by asking the students to look at an image of two women with black liquid oozing out of their mouths. The students were asked to think about what the advertisement was trying to project, first by themselves, then write it down, then sharing through their A-B partners, and then having volunteers to share with the class. This activity really got the students thinking and it was interesting to hear all of the different responses.
The next activity was the snowball activity. The students were given a questionnaire with 10 questions that focused around water and bottled water. For each question, the students could choose from one of four options A-D. The students were told not to put their names on the paper. Next, commenced the snowball activity. The teacher had a goal up on his smart board and the students tried to score on him, and then they just threw the balls all over at each other. The students then grabbed a snowball and un-crumpled it and put their names on the paper. The teacher then went over each question. This was the part that I thought became very powerful for creating student engagement and learning. The teacher had a giant letter A-D posted on each one of the four walls in the room. The students were then asked to move to the letter that was chosen for the question on their piece of paper. This created a great visual, created anonymity in all responses, and also surprised the students as to the answers. For several of the questions there were only a few of the students, and in one case one, standing by the correct letter. The students were asked to put a start by the correct answer.
This lesson fit in great with the learning theme Water week that had been taking place. As a result of lessons like this and other activities that were taking place in other classes, students have come together to try and get the vending machines removed from the school that have plastic bottles in them. This lesson created buzz and dialogue around the issue of plastic water bottles that carried well beyond the walls and boundaries of the school property.
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