Traditionally children demonstrated what they learned through written reports and tests. However, not only do many children not demonstrate well this way, moving forward into this century, this is not the way that creative and innovative thinkers will demonstrate what they know.
There are many, many different ways for children to show what they have learned. Authentic learning needs authentic demonstration. Children should be encouraged to show what they have learned in ways that they are comfortable with and confident about. They should also be encouraged to demonstrate mastery of what they know in unique and new ways.
Photo-Journals, Computer Presentations, Literary Works, Scripts, Performances, Posters, Demonstrations, Competitions, Models, Dioramas, Correspondence…
In the back of our back One School’s Journey we made a list of all of the ways that students had demonstrated learning/presented projects in our school. Honestly, we could probably double that list a year later. As our students became more comfortable with authentic learning they evolved with the unique ways they presented what they had learned. These are the kinds of doers and thinkers that will make it, and make a difference in this coming century!
I am really excited to announce that One School’s Journey won a Distinguished Favorite honor from the Independent Press Awards in the Education Category.
This international competition is judged by industry experts and had entries from around the world. Peggy and I are truly honored!
One School’s Journey is available on Amazon. (Read for free on Kindle Unlimited)
One School’s Journey was written for educators. The goal of writing One School’s Journey was to not only document what we had accomplished at our school, but to inspire educators to use authentic teaching.
When I think about parenting, there are a lot of things we talked about in One School’s Journey that can also be applied to parenting. Children develop best when in authentic situations. When children are treated as individuals who can make decisions, learn, and grow – with guidance and support – they prosper. So, while One School’s Journey was written for educators, we think it is a worthwhile read for parents as well. After all, a huge part of parenting is being an educator! And it’s free on Kindle Unlimited!
One School’s Journey by Eleanor K. Smith and Margaret Pastor. Available on Amazon
I am very excited to announce that One School’s Journey made Chanticleer International Award’s Shortlist for Instruction and Insight Books. I am so very proud of this book and honored to be on this list.
One School’s Journey tells the story of the discovery and use of authentic projects to reach and teach students. While offering procedure, guidance, and examples, this is not a book of lesson plans. Our bias is that for true authentic teaching you cannot follow someone else’s lesson plans. Authentic projects come from the heart and are adapted to meet the needs and interests of students. Our hope is that the reader will find inspiration from what we discovered as we set down the path to authentic teaching and learning.
One School’s Journey by Eleanor K. Smith and Margaret Pastor is available for free on Kindle Unlimited. It is also available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon.
Student Designed and Built Lander
NASA successfully landed another spacecraft on Mars last week. My husband and I watched the landing and both of us had tears in our eyes. It is so totally amazing when you stop and think about what NASA has accomplished. We were just blown away. (We were also very impressed with the extremely cool “Star Trekkie” shirts that everyone in Mission Control was wearing during the landing. Don’t tell my husband, but one is on order for him for a holiday gift!)
The mission of this stationary craft is to study the deep interior of Mars. Launched along with InSight but flying separately were two CubeSats. MarCo A and B, nicknamed Wall-E and Eva (from the Pixar film Wall-E) are now in orbit around Mars.
The authentic projects that students could do regarding InSight and the CubeSats are endless. What is InSight’s mission? What mission firsts will take place? Is InSight a rover? What is the mission of the CubeSats? If you could design a mission to Mars what would your design be? What would you hope to accomplish? This list could go on forever…
My Martian Colony Project started by simply showing a fifth-grade class NASA videos of the Martian Rovers Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. This authentic project took off from there and literally took over my professional life for the next four years! (For more on this check out my book One School’s Journey – you can read it for free on Kindle Unlimited.)
Available on Amazon. Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
I am very excited to announce that my book about Authentic Learning with my former and forever principal, Peggy Pastor, is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. Click on the Amazon link above to check it out!
One School’s Journey tells the story of an elementary school in Maryland, in the suburbs near Washington, D.C. The school’s student population is extremely diverse, with students representing many races, socio-economics levels, and academic abilities. The path towards the use of authentic projects to teach and reach this diverse population is chronicled by the two authors – Eleanor K. Smith (me), a teacher, and Margaret Pastor, the building principal.
While offering procedure, guidance, and examples, this is not a book of lesson plans. Our bias is that for true authentic teaching you cannot follow someone else’s lesson plans. Authentic projects come from the heart and are adapted to meet the needs and interests of the students.
This book is about the journey of the staff at our elementary school, as we set down the path to discover how to engage our students. What was not a surprise, was that when children are engaged, they learn. And authentic projects engage the learner. Our hope is that the reader will find inspiration from what we discovered along the way.
Last night I read two posts on Facebook from foreign language teachers who were looking for ways to use projects in their classrooms. Initially, I felt that I really hadn’t thought about foreign language and authentic projects before. After thinking about this for awhile, it dawned on me that in actuality I had. Working on my Martian Colony Project, the largest and most comprehensive authentic project I was involved with, many of the children were ESOL. The Martian Colony was a fantastic way for them to learn English. Authentic projects are rich with language experiences. So if we were using authentic projects to teach English to speakers of other languages, then we were using authentic projects to teach a foreign language.
I thought back on my own foreign language classes, and the one lesson I remembered from high school (it’s been a few years) was an authentic project where we wrote letters to pen pals in Mexico. I definitely learned and retained more from that project than from anything else we did that year. It was real, it mattered, there was ownership, pride, and expectation of a return letter. (The letter might even be from a boy – I was a teenager, boys were what I thought about most of the time, ok – all of the time!) The letters went back and forth several times (my pen pal was a boy!) and for every letter I increased my Spanish vocabulary significantly – not only from writing my letters but from reading his.
Take any authentic project that is of interest to the teacher and students, bring it into a foreign language class, and I can guarantee the engagement and learning will greatly increase. Writing to pen pals in another language is a great authentic project. Going through a quick list in my head of projects I have been involved with, I can’t think of one that wouldn’t work for foreign language, and as the school I taught at had a large ESOL population, all of the projects I worked on were used to teach another language.
Good Luck! Buena suerte! Bonne chance! Buona fortuna! Viel Gluck!
*One School’s Journey, written with my former and forever principal, will be published and available on Amazon by the end of this month. This book tells the story of the journey our school took as it set down the path using authentic projects to teach. Stay tuned for more information.