So today’s dilemma is about World History II. I’m home planning with a little leisure time for once because we all got sent home after work and after school meetings were cancelled due to severe weather warnings. The plan was to slightly modify a skit project that one of my colleagues has his kids do on the Protestant Reformation. So I sat here and read through it again, thought about other project ideas, and then started to think some more.
The problem with this is that now I’m doubting my whole plan. If I weren’t doubting it I could just make a few tweaks and be done and get up early to make the copies I would’ve made this afternoon. Given time to reflect, I start to doubt the entire premise.
See, history teachers like to do projects that are “somewhat authentic” – we’re taught in college that this a better way to assess history knowledge and get kids interested in a subject than just lecture/notes and tests. The idea has been popularized by the History Alive! folks. Don’t get me wrong – I like a lot of what they do. I’m just so skeptical anymore about standard history teacher projects.
As a new teacher I jumped into these ideas, following what I was taught. I’ve had some success but over the years I’ve come to be skeptical of projects like have the students write a newspaper on the Reformation or make skits or interview historical figures. Do the kids really learn more from doing this or do they focus on the product and not retain the information? Plus, how engaging are they, really? The kids who already come to my class with some motivation will find a hook, but those are the same kids that gave me gorgeously detailed artwork for an assignment on finding pictures related to each religion we studied in Unit 1. What about everybody else? Why should they care more about writing a fake newspaper about the Reformation than notes?
I know a lot of people’s answer to this is audience. Despite some initial ideas I never really jumped into the idea of having kids blog or otherwise post schoolwork online. Honestly it doesn’t seem that much better – it’s just another form of the same old phony project. Like how webquests were going to be so awesome (I had to make one in college for my class on social studies specific pedagogies) but turned out to be just another form of making kids do research projects, except now there’s a computer. I do not believe that adding a computer/the internet suddenly makes it better. Sorry.
Unfortunately all of this has left me with lots of questions and no answers. I have time in my schedule (for once) to do more than go over the basics of the Reformation and I already told the kids we’re doing a group project starting tomorrow and I want to throw my existing plan out the window and it’s 7pm.
So yeah, that’s my dilemma right nw.