Extreme Makeover: Worksheet Edition

Fridays should be fun.  On Fridays, when I see what I have planned, if it’s not fun, I feel especially inspired to change it and make it better.

Yesterday, I was planning for us to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different jobs, followed by a timed writing.  It was a lovely worksheet, one that I excitedly and proudly created during our summer curriculum writing in June.  Well, while the purpose and intention are in the right place, I just knew I could make it better.  And inspiration struck!  Naturally, it struck at about 8:30 while I was dealing with 2 detention kids, with 30 minutes left until my 1st period class began.  Isn’t that how it always happens?

Well, I wasn’t going to let something like time get in the way of turning an okay activity into something awesome!!!!  I ran around like crazy, managed to reserve the collaboration space, winged the instructions in first period–the experimental class–and managed to pull it off, working out a few kinks along the way.

So what was this genius idea?  Well, rather than do it as a worksheet, I divided the students into groups, assigning each group the task to come up with either the advantages or the disadvantages to a specific job.  After discovering that 15 minutes messed up the flow of the other two parts of the activity, I shortened it to 10 minutes in 3rd period.  True, some groups had difficulty compiling an extensive list of 10 advantages or disadvantages in that amount of time, but most had at least 6-7.

After the 10 minutes, the students moved to one of my school’s collaboration spaces to hang up their posters.  We then had a gallery walk (something I learned about at the AVID Summer Institute).  They quietly walked from poster to poster, reading the information provided.  The students could add to the posters if they had a good idea and were required to write down the top 2-3 advantages and disadvantages of the jobs they would consider for themselves.  I allowed 15 minutes for this process.

We then returned to our classroom and had our 15-minute timed writing (that we will peer edit on Monday).

Sure, the original plan would have taken maybe a total of 25 minutes, leaving time for other activities, but would it have been as meaningful?  Would we have gone into as much depth?  Would it have been as personal?  Would it have been as fun?  No.  I was so impressed with how many useful words and phrases my students figured out were important just by trying to come up with the advantages and disadvantages to 8 different jobs.

We often feel overwhelmed by the breadth of what we or the students must do.  Yesterday was all about the depth, and I’ve never seen my students dig that deep into this topic in 5 years of teaching it.  It was AMAZING.  And… It was fun :).

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