If you try this activity with your student(s), we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.
Created by: Aleta Margolis
Age level: All
Time: The ideas generated by students could last for several weeks.
Materials: Initially just brainstorming documents but eventually student inquiry projects could require varied materials.
Begging children to get up and get ready for school is such a commonly accepted part of life in the United States that it’s the subject of or at least a common scene in many movies, television shows, and advertisements. We expect students to dislike going to school and in many instances school does a good job of meeting that expectation. But from a very young age, children know what interests them. They understand the drive to investigate what intrigues them, they can even come up with a way to feed that curiosity. Usually, they do all this outside of school because schools regulate the who, what, where, when, why, and how of their curriculum. Hence the fact we frequently ignore and then push our students to accept the idea that it’s okay if school is boring. It’s just something we have to do.
But what if that weren’t the case? Where could we turn as teachers to figure out what students might like to learn? How about the students themselves?
What to Do:
- If your students are old enough, consider making a copy of and then administering this survey or a variation of it to give you a pulse check on where your students are right now in terms of their school experience and where they would like to go.
- Begin a class session with the question: “What would make you look forward to coming to school?” At the start of the discussion you are likely to get some answers that fall outside the realm of possibility like: “I would get paid to come.” “All my classes would be filled with free candy.” “I would get to play on the playground for 7 hours a day.” “There would be no work.” Consider adding follow up questions such as, “What would you be learning about that would make you look forward to coming to school?” “What kinds of classroom activities would make being at school interesting for you?” Engage students in this discussion for as long as they are able to keep it going as this will feed their imaginations for the next step. You might want to take notes on the board (or on a google doc) as they share out.
- After the class has brainstormed collectively, ask them to write down their own personal reflection on that overarching question using this “Excited to Come to School” planning document. You can have students fill out their own individual copies or contribute to one document for the whole class.
- Take a few days to look at all the ideas students have shared. Is there overlap? Could students be combined into groups for certain projects? Which are realistic within your timeframe? Do you have a period of days or weeks when students could work on these? Could you create a “Genius Hour” once a week or once a month when students could work on these projects or ideas? Can you see how the standards you are required to teach this year could be adapted to fit these projects? Consider giving your students a list of the standards and having them map them onto their projects. You’d be surprised at how well they can do with this! After these considerations, come back to students with a plan that fills in these blanks:
Starting [beginning of project] and running through [end of the project] you will work [independently or in small groups] to take these amazing ideas and run with them. It will be important that at the end of this project [state a goal either that they set and/or one that is tied to mastery of certain standards]. How you demonstrate that learning will be up to you. I will provide [materials, support, guidance]. Your first assignment as part of this project is to create a plan for what you will need to do each [day/week] to keep you on track and move you toward your goal.
- Launch the project(s)! Once students are fully engaged in work that they’ve chosen on topics that matter to them you’ll be surprised at how much they self-regulate and keep on task. Your energies will likely be more focused on trouble-shooting, side coaching, and reminding them of timelines. You may have to significantly grow your own knowledge in the areas they’re exploring and that will be invigorating for you as well. Remember to let your students teach you! Listen and ask questions. The more you do this the more you position them as the experts.
- Consider a showcase where students can demonstrate what they have accomplished through these projects. If all went well, think about how you might continue this approach in the weeks and months ahead!
Inspired Teaching Connection
An immersive activity like this includes ALL the Inspired Teaching core elements. Learners are creating something with Purpose that also involves Persistence and Action. This is intense but Joyful work. The product as well as the process provide Wide-ranging Evidence of Student Learning. As drivers of their own discoveries, students will demonstrate the role of Experts in their final products and throughout the process. Centering students in curriculum development in this way is a strong example of Mutual Respect. Such a rich learning experience is also full of the 4 I’s, as Intellect, Inquiry, Imagination, and Integrity will all be hard at work. As students work through the projects they have created, you’ll see the Wonder-Experiment-Learn Cycle play out again and again.
See our instructional model here.
Standards Addressed by this Activity
Your students will likely address a wide range of standards in the projects they choose to create. The whole planning process for this activity will engage students’ social and emotional learning so regardless of the final projects the CASEL competencies will be at play. You might review the other standards below to see if there are particular areas where you’d want students to focus their efforts.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies
Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.
Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.
Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.
Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing
Text Types and Purposes:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
Production and Distribution of Writing:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language
Conventions of Standard English:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Knowledge of Language:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading
Key Ideas and Details:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Craft and Structure:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice
Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1 Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution. They analyze givens, constraints, relationships, and goals. They make conjectures about the form and meaning of the solution and plan a solution pathway rather than simply jumping into a solution attempt. They consider analogous problems, and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution. They monitor and evaluate their progress and change course if necessary. Older students might, depending on the context of the problem, transform algebraic expressions or change the viewing window on their graphing calculator to get the information they need. Mathematically proficient students can explain correspondences between equations, verbal descriptions, tables, and graphs or draw diagrams of important features and relationships, graph data, and search for regularity or trends. Younger students might rely on using concrete objects or pictures to help conceptualize and solve a problem. Mathematically proficient students check their answers to problems using a different method, and they continually ask themselves, “Does this make sense?” They can understand the approaches of others to solving complex problems and identify correspondences between different approaches.
Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2 Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations. They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems involving quantitative relationships: the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize, to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved. Quantitative reasoning entails habits of creating a coherent representation of the problem at hand; considering the units involved; attending to the meaning of quantities, not just how to compute them; and knowing and flexibly using different properties of operations and objects.
Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3 Mathematically proficient students understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments. They make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements to explore the truth of their conjectures. They are able to analyze situations by breaking them into cases, and can recognize and use counterexamples. They justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others. They reason inductively about data, making plausible arguments that take into account the context from which the data arose. Mathematically proficient students are also able to compare the effectiveness of two plausible arguments, distinguish correct logic or reasoning from that which is flawed, and—if there is a flaw in an argument—explain what it is. Elementary students can construct arguments using concrete referents such as objects, drawings, diagrams, and actions. Such arguments can make sense and be correct, even though they are not generalized or made formal until later grades. Later, students learn to determine domains to which an argument applies. Students at all grades can listen or read the arguments of others, decide whether they make sense, and ask useful questions to clarify or improve the arguments.
Model with mathematics.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP4 Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. In early grades, this might be as simple as writing an addition equation to describe a situation. In middle grades, a student might apply proportional reasoning to plan a school event or analyze a problem in the community. By high school, a student might use geometry to solve a design problem or use a function to describe how one quantity of interest depends on another. Mathematically proficient students who can apply what they know are comfortable making assumptions and approximations to simplify a complicated situation, realizing that these may need revision later. They are able to identify important quantities in a practical situation and map their relationships using such tools as diagrams, two-way tables, graphs, flowcharts and formulas. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.
Use appropriate tools strategically.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5 Mathematically proficient students consider the available tools when solving a mathematical problem. These tools might include pencil and paper, concrete models, a ruler, a protractor, a calculator, a spreadsheet, a computer algebra system, a statistical package, or dynamic geometry software. Proficient students are sufficiently familiar with tools appropriate for their grade or course to make sound decisions about when each of these tools might be helpful, recognizing both the insight to be gained and their limitations. For example, mathematically proficient high school students analyze graphs of functions and solutions generated using a graphing calculator. They detect possible errors by strategically using estimation and other mathematical knowledge. When making mathematical models, they know that technology can enable them to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data. Mathematically proficient students at various grade levels are able to identify relevant external mathematical resources, such as digital content located on a website, and use them to pose or solve problems. They are able to use technological tools to explore and deepen their understanding of concepts.
Attend to precision.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP6 Mathematically proficient students try to communicate precisely to others. They try to use clear definitions in discussion with others and in their own reasoning. They state the meaning of the symbols they choose, including using the equal sign consistently and appropriately. They are careful about specifying units of measure, and labeling axes to clarify the correspondence with quantities in a problem. They calculate accurately and efficiently, express numerical answers with a degree of precision appropriate for the problem context. In the elementary grades, students give carefully formulated explanations to each other. By the time they reach high school they have learned to examine claims and make explicit use of definitions.
Look for and make use of structure.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7 Mathematically proficient students look closely to discern a pattern or structure. Young students, for example, might notice that three and seven more is the same amount as seven and three more, or they may sort a collection of shapes according to how many sides the shapes have. Later, students will see 7 × 8 equals the well remembered 7 × 5 + 7 × 3, in preparation for learning about the distributive property. In the expression x2 + 9x + 14, older students can see the 14 as 2 × 7 and the 9 as 2 + 7. They recognize the significance of an existing line in a geometric figure and can use the strategy of drawing an auxiliary line for solving problems. They also can step back for an overview and shift perspective. They can see complicated things, such as some algebraic expressions, as single objects or as being composed of several objects. For example, they can see 5 – 3(x – y)2 as 5 minus a positive number times a square and use that to realize that its value cannot be more than 5 for any real numbers x and y.
Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP8 Mathematically proficient students notice if calculations are repeated, and look both for general methods and for shortcuts. Upper elementary students might notice when dividing 25 by 11 that they are repeating the same calculations over and over again, and conclude they have a repeating decimal. By paying attention to the calculation of slope as they repeatedly check whether points are on the line through (1, 2) with slope 3, middle school students might abstract the equation (y – 2)/(x – 1) = 3. Noticing the regularity in the way terms cancel when expanding (x – 1)(x + 1), (x – 1)(x2 + x + 1), and (x – 1)(x3 + x2 + x + 1) might lead them to the general formula for the sum of a geometric series. As they work to solve a problem, mathematically proficient students maintain oversight of the process, while attending to the details. They continually evaluate the reasonableness of their intermediate results.
College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards
|Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries
|Dimension 2: Applying Disciplinary Tools and Concepts
|Dimension 3: Evaluating Sources and Using Evidence
|Dimension 4: Communicating Conclusions and Taking Informed Action
|Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries
|Gathering and Evaluating Sources
|Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions
|Developing Claims and Using Evidence
|Taking Informed Action