Dean Shareski wrote a post back in February of 2011 entitled “What does joy have to do with learning?” I am sure when Dean finished the post he did not necessarily think it would be one of his most memorable, but it was with me. It has stuck with me ever since I have read it. I am guilty of often doing things in class just because they are fun…but not so much this year. You know…things are changing…less fun….more rigor.
This week we did something just for fun. We spent way too long on the Donner Party story. We were going to finish it off with a very simple assignment that was supposed to last 20 minutes. Come into class, pretend there is a movie coming out on the Donner Party, and write a script for the movie trailer, and move on. After the first class started it, I noticed they were having a lot of fun with it. They were putting in much more effort and thought than I would have predicted. I just wanted them to summarize the essence of the Donner Party story, and basically turn their thesis for their essay (not so fun) into something fancy and memorable. The first class decided they wanted to be creative, spend more than 15 minutes on them, and we decided to record them with music the next day…so a fifteen minute activity turned into a two period activity.
We had a lot of fun recording them, and they had a lot of fun listening to them afterwards. When they walked in I played 10 seconds of six songs, they had to pick one and come up and read their script which could be no longer than 30 seconds. We then popped in the music. To finish in one period we had to average no more than 90 seconds a kid from start to finish. It would have been nice to have heard the whole music piece, rehearse it to the music, try the script with different music…and maybe even take the time to put it to video with images…but that would have been another three days at least, and well…too much fun gets in the way of the rigor.
I have included some samples below. They are my favorites for various reasons, three are from kids who have never ever handed in anything on time, one from someone who never had the courage to record something live before, and a couple because there lines are so witty that you have to know something about the Donner Party to catch the hidden meaning. I will end this post with the same words from Dean’s post:
With regards to creating a product like the ones below do you:
- Do it because it’s not only fun but likely does address some curricular outcomes but you might have to look them up later. Fingers crossed.
- Do it and to heck with the outcomes, doing joyful things with students is important.
- Do it but perhaps as an extra-curricular activity because you’re not sure where it fits with a robust curriculum but still think it’s important.
- Not do it at all.