Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 27th: What Comfort Zone!

Ok, I'll admit it. I don't exactly live well with the phrase "Change is Good." I like my comfort zone. I can kick back and relax my comfy clothes, eating comfort food. Don't bother me kid, I'm complacent.

But I took a chance today. I stuck one toe into the "Change is Good" camp, started to draw it back when things weren't going as planned, but wound up, eventually, with both feet planted firmly in Camp CiG!

Let me explain.

I've never used a video camera before. A still camera, no problem. I can figure out a still camera without much effort. But a video camera that records not only the action in front of the lens, but the potential cursing from the teacher behind the lens? No thank you! That's the last thing I need. But I needed to think like a teacher today, and consider, first and foremost, what was best for my students.

And after all of the hard work they've put into their recent social studies project, I knew it needed to be captured on video. Especially when I found out that one of the groups had written an entire musical! That's right...Umayyads vs. Abassids - The Musical. "Umayyad, my lord, Umayyad..." (Think Kumbaya)


This entire project pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone. Let's start with the fact that I let them choose their own groups. I've never done that before, always preferring to arrange the groups myself to assure best possible work. There was always this little voice inside my head saying, "But if they work with their friends who have similar interests, they may be able to tap into their creativity and create a better project."

Shhhh. Silly inner voice. School is no place for creativity!

Step One into Camp CiG: Students picked their own groups.
Result: Awesomeness!

Once they'd chosen their own groups, they were allowed to decide on their own project. All I told them was they needed to somehow summarize the current chapter in their world history book, "The Rise of Muslim States." We brainstormed some different ideas: posters, timelines, skits, videos, even the dreaded powerpoint.
  • How
  • many
  • bullet points
  • can
  • you
  • fit
  • on
  • one
  • slide?
In the end, most groups are doing skits, videos, or a combination thereof. One group, my artists, decided to create a very large map of the territories once controlled by the Abassids or the Umayyads. They did a good job on their project, but they had an awesome time creating it.

Step Two into Camp CiG: Students chose their own project.
Result: So far, so awesome!

The one requirement I placed on their projects was that they had to use Google Docs to write their scripts. That way they could all work on it from home without having parents send the dreaded "I can't believe you're making my child work on a group project outside of school!" email to the teacher. Of course, having them use Google Docs also allows me to see who is doing what portion of the writing. I don't think they've caught onto that yet.


Step Three into Camp CiG: Students use Google Docs to write scripts.
Result: Way cool!!

Okay, so using Google Docs with my students wasn't really a step outside of my comfort zone. But it was for some of them, and the teacher has to deal with that. So, Step Three it is.

And then there was the video camera. I went over to the media center at lunch to retrieve the camera and the tripod from our tech coordinator. Anna was also kind enough to give me a quick tutorial on how to use the camera. A tutorial, it turns out, that somehow got deleted from my brain as soon as I walked out the door.

Fast forward to me standing in the back of the classroom, fumbling with the tripod and then trying to figure out how to use the camera. "Wait," I said out loud to myself, "what did Anna say to do?" The little voice inside my brain returned. "This is just not going to work! It's time to give in. You'll never get this figured out. And have you noticed the chaos around you? Students are swinging from the light fixtures; spitwads are flying everywhere; someone just ran through the room screaming, 'Miss McMillan is stupid! She can't do anything!'"

Ok, that last one was just me. And my classroom still has its hanging light fixtures, and my walls are spitwad-free. But I did think about giving up..."It would be so much easier," was the thought that entered my brain. Just give up and move on.

But I had promised my kids! And after I made that promise, they decided that they could sell DVDs of the movie to family and friends and donate the money to Haiti. So now if I gave up, I wasn't just letting my kids down...I was letting all of Haiti down!! That's just too much pressure!

Whenever I train new people on using the Promethean ActivBoard, I always say the same thing, "If you have any trouble or can't figure something out, just ask the kids!" Genius!! Within a few minutes of asking the question, we had it figured out and were ready to roll!!!

Step Four into Camp CiG: Figuring out how to use a video camera
Result: I haven't seen the video yet, but I'm hoping it will be total awesomeness!!!!

I shared with you in another post that I discovered one of the groups was incorporating something I had said in class about the pronunciation of "apricots" (it's not spelled APEricots!) I had seen it in their Google Doc, so I knew it was coming. But it still caught me off guard when they said their lines about APEricots.

So, for just a moment, picture the teacher standing directly behind the rolling video camera, trying her darndest not to laugh! I wanted so badly to do a little LOLing, but also didn't want my rather loud, obnoxious laugh (or even my softer Scooby-Doo-like giggle) to drown out the girls on the video camera. Well, the harder I tried not to laugh, the more the tears poured down my face. And, of course, the more the teacher tries not to laugh, the more her students will notice her not laughing causing them to laugh even harder, which makes it harder for the teacher...

See where I'm going with this? It ought to be quite interesting to listen to the video.

The two skits we were able to see today, a courtroom scene very cleverly written, and Umayyad vs. Abassid - The Musical, were both wonderfully done. I'm so proud of my students! And, yes, I'm feeling a little proud of myself tonight for having taken a step or two outside my comfort zone. And now I'm ready to incorporate video into my classroom more often. I'm already composing my letter to Santa for next Christmas: "Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is a class set of Flip cameras!" That's not too much to it?

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