Tagged: student voices

(App)Smashing Test Prep: 2-Minute Tutorial Videos

While exploring the pattern of the hero’s journey in literature, my juniors partake in their own learning journey through literacy and life. To experience the structure of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, I organize my World Literature and Composition course according to four major stages of the hero’s journey.

  1. Separation from the Ordinary World
  2. Initiation: The Trials and Challenges of Heroism
  3. Transformation: An Inward Journey
  4. The Return

Image result for hero's journey

After they accept the call to adventure, juniors cross the threshold into an unknown world of trials and challenges during quarter two. As we study the adventures of heroes through selected epics, I am responsible for guiding student progress and training for greater tests of skill.

My young heroes have to build strength, endurance, and stamina to perform admirably. They need to become critical thinkers, careful readers, and confident writers. But without the assistance of divine intervention or supernatural aid, I simply want to give my students the advantage of understanding their human flaws and feeling secure in their abilities. A seemingly daunting ACT/SAT exam is nothing more than a one-day opportunity to allow for easier passage to the next stage of their journey (and can be retaken). It is not a predictor of future success or self-worth.

This year, learners are attacking their training and preparation for battle. So what’s making the difference? My courageous juniors are not only exercising their minds; they are expressing their voices. Continue reading


Framing Powerful Memories of School

Remember the excitement of fifth grade? We had enough tools in our backpack to read and write, problem solve, ask big questions, and attack the world with vibrant eyes and independence. Every Friday, I rushed off the bus to search encyclopedias (remember those?), call my grandparents, and contact library reference desks to find the answer to Ms. Setzer’s weekly trivia question. She piqued my curiosity and inspired my thinking with an optional weekend challenge.

By Monday morning, I proudly placed an answer on Ms. Setzer’s desk. Nothing beat the feeling of conquering another quest, and the look of satisfaction in my teacher’s warm smile. During the week in Ms. Setzer’s class, I eagerly completed daily content lessons so I could sit in the oversized chair—the one by the fish tanks—on the stage in the back of the room. In that sacred space, I had time to read for pleasure, solve brain teasers, learn how to play chess, or work on a project.

The most memorable project extended well beyond the fifth grade curriculum. Our school was running a silent auction to fundraise for a charity. Each student was asked to reach out to family and friends for auction items. My buddy and I brainstormed ideas from the oversized chairs in the back of the classroom. What could two fifth grade boys possibly contribute to the cause? Continue reading

Unleashing Learners’ Superpowers

Heroes quest for knowledge and crave adventure. Their journeys consist of trials–tests of strength, skill, resourcefulness, and endurance. With each challenge, heroes are expected to be courageous, take calculated risks, and prove their worthiness. Fortunately, heroes find mentors–teachers who provide guidance, wisdom, and feedback during training, and help each hero recognize their unique gifts.

While heroes appear superhuman, they must face the truth: like all humans, heroes are flawed. The greatest adversity is self-doubt, a conflicted mind, the temptation to give up. Heroes must look inward to conquer their darkest fears. Only then may they return to impact society and leave a legacy.

When we replace hero with learner in the classroom, we witness the impact of personalized learning. When we empower learners, we unleash their super powers. Empowering learners to explore the unknown requires courage–for educators as well as learners. It is not easy for educators to unlearn what they know and what has traditionally been expected of them.

Accept the call to adventure. Join our hero’s journey on a quest to personalize learning. If you are unable to attend the 8th Annual National Convening on Personalized Learning, follow the Twitter hashtag #PLconf17

Want to “Foster Powerful Learners“? Unleash their superpowers!

We never know what our learners are thinking or capable of creating. When we provide time, tools, space, and opportunities to make their own connections, students will remove their masks and use their powers to answer questions educators would never consider asking. 

Attendees of Not All Heroes are Created the Same: Unleashing Learners’ Superpowers will be treated to a session featuring the voices of my heroes. Four courageous students will reflect on a year’s worth of challenges, adventures, and personal transformation on their quest for understanding. They return from their journey to share their stories, guided by essential questions from the Epic Final Exam.

Stage 1: Separation from the Ordinary World

  • What did you discover about yourself as a learner?
  • What was your call to adventure? Did you initially accept or resist the call?
  • How did crossing the threshold in this course force you out of your comfort zone?

Stage 2: Initiation – Trials and Challenges

  • What was your most memorable adventure in this class?
  • What was the most challenging obstacle for you this year?
  • What academic risks did you take throughout the year?
  • What was your greatest achievement?

Stage 3: Transformation – The Inward Journey

  • How have you transformed throughout the year?
  • What traditional habits and thinking did you have to unlearn in order to transform? Reflect on your growth and self-understanding.

Stage 4: The Return – Impact Society. Leave a Legacy

  • What new knowledge about the world have you gained by studying the content of this course?
  • Use the literature you’ve read to answer the essential question: “How may an individual impact society?”
  • Discuss your contributions to society. What have you created that did not exist before?

Throughout each stage, participants will receive supernatural aid and tools to support their quest to personalize learning. Before the session ends, heroic educators will be well on the way to crafting the story of their next educational journey.

Unleashing Learners_ Superpowers - Google Slides

Meta for You, Metaphor Me

Today I let it slip.

I admitted to my juniors that I write. Then I explained how I’m involved in this 30-day blogging challenge; I asked for their help and meant it. They know my student-centered approach to learning is transparent–a window to worlds beyond the confines of our classroom–but I wanted them to craft their own metaphor about what this class represents to them. At the risk of overly-honest feedback, I collected their responses. English teachers will do anything for a good metaphor.

One student interprets our classroom as “a clubhouse–a group of close friends working and learning great things together with every meeting.” The relationships within the Clubhouse provide a catalyst to our collective transformation into something beyond explanation–something greater.

*a rainbow or mural; full of light and colorful ideas
*a blank canvas with each student the paint, ready to contribute to the picture
*a piece of music in which a variety of information comes together as a harmonious chord
*a collection of Shakespeare’s works; some days are full of comedy, some full of tragedy, but mostly just plain weird

Our class is good for HEALTH & WELL-BEING…
*a biscuit–delicious and nutritious for the brain
*a comforting pillow–eliminates stress and gets me through the day
*a cold drink on a hot summer day; a nice contrast to my stress-filled classes
*like Taco Bell–always an adventure, full of variety, quenches our hunger, and might give you diarrhea
*like Lipton–not my cup of tea, but still warm and enjoyable

*a tempestuous storm or whirlwind of insight and knowledge; stormy at first, then a peaceful calm of understanding
*like jumping into water–there is pressure to risk jumping in, but after adjusting provides a calming welcome
*a guest of honor at a surprise party–at first you might be startled or shocked, but eventually you relax and enjoy the change in routine
*a television series–we never know how it is going to end
*a circus–entertaining and random, but requires skill to perform (and includes several clowns)
*a pair of 3D glasses that make literature pop with life, keeping students engaged and interested
*an amusement park–once you go in, you can go so many directions; some are crazy, scary, exciting, and you can even get lost in it; but at closing time, you ultimately find your way. You come out with a new perspective.
*a brand new pair of neon running shoes–bright, colorful, and helps get you where you want to go, but doesn’t show you the direction or pull you there. It gives the freedom to be independent on your own adventure.

Our class is GROWTH-MINDED…
*a woodland hike–with many paths to get to the same destination
*an elevator that lifts me up from the boredom of other classes
*a water slide–we climb many steps and put in the work, but have the time of our life going down
*where the students are flowers blossoming through the concrete–in a confined environment Mr. Durst promotes our growth as individuals

I had many of these students when they were freshmen and now I have the privilege to work with them a second time before they graduate. I respect their intelligence and integrity, so I trusted their ability to supply the content of this post. In typical fashion, they did not disappoint.