I had an interesting reaction to this tweet tonight. It is a tweet I am 100% behind. I get very excited about the curriculum I develop – I love the big ideas, the various texts we can find to support the learning, the myriad ways students could (in perfect world) represent their learning, the different ways to connect it to our lives here and now, the skills they will develop.
And yet, I had a slightly negative, visceral response to it as well. I think it has to do with the idea of a stand alone lesson needing to be ‘exciting’. I wonder if this doesn’t set teachers up to feel terrible if it isn’t a party in their classroom every day. I wonder if it means they feel like they have to do a lot of song and dance, but then don’t have time enough to get students engaging difficult text, for example.
Here’s what I try to do. Let’s say the topic is how geography, the land, creates culture. One of the big ideas of the BC First Nations course is that the First Nations are connected to the land – I think the actual quote is something like “…rooted in the land like the great trees of the forest”. The land is central to the language, the culture, the oral tradition, the skills, the stories, the world views of First Nations in BC. My job is to get students thinking about that big picture idea. At a basic level, we talk about what we might have been doing over Christmas if we lived in Australia instead of Central British Columbia. I show the first episode of Guns, Germs and Steel, which pulls us way back in time and encompasses a global perspective on the more general topic of how geography impacts social and economic development. I show a video called, The Warmth of Love, in which the elder, Sophie Thomas discusses her connection to the land. We do some map work on language families, which reinforces the idea of geography and culture. I do some direct teaching of vocabulary – words and phrases like adapt, adaptation, natural resources, seasonal round and so on. Now I have them thinking large and also thinking in practical, local terms.
Tomorrow, though, we have to tackle the text book. I am not that excited. They won’t be either. But it is what is next. We are going to be getting down to some harder work. I will get them into the room with me with some kind of video clip, or a news story, review or just some chit-chat. Then, I’ll remind them of our learning intentions, show them what to do and it will be time to be quiet and work. I hope by now they are interested and excited about the big picture. I am. But the lesson will not be a song and dance for much more than the first 5 or so minutes. I will continue to cheerlead, support, and read to them.
I am excited about the learning. Maybe this is exactly what he means. Even though I am a huge Twitter fan it doesn’t have enough characters to encompass the complexity of teaching.