Assignments That Get Students’ Attention

In two recent posts, Grant Wiggins asked students to respond to the prompts, “I learn best when the teacher_________” and “What was the best assignment you did this year?“. Honestly, anyone who understands student-centered pedagogy and how young minds work should not be surprised in the least at how they responded. I decided to make their responses more visual using Wordle. So, here they are.

“I learn best when the teacher ____________.”

"I learn best when the teacher _______."

“I learn best when the teacher _______.”

“What was the  best assignment that you did this year?

"What was the best assignment that you did this year?

“What was the best assignment that you did this year?

Now, decontextualized from the students’ actual full-text responses, these visualizations aren’t quite as powerful. So, make sure that you read their responses. However, anyone who understands learning and students should have no difficulty reading between the lines here. They should also have no difficulty identifying words, actions, and ideas that are not present.

I love when Gary Stager tells the anecdote of a student running up to him (or any teacher) in the grocery store, and enthusiastically saying, “Do you remember that  [insert project] that we did in [insert grade]?” (see Gary’s article, What Makes a Good Project“)

With all of the new mandates, increased “rigor“, curriculum compacting, competition for funds and scores, standards, accountability, high-stakes testing for all, college readiness, decline of the arts, recess, physical activity, violence and security measures,… it becomes more important than ever to advocate for the children, the students – from the superintendent, the principal, the teacher, to the parent. We need to stop letting suits in offices mandate what learning should look like. We need to stop thinking that we have no control over this. We do. We do.

How would students in your classroom respond to these two prompts? Regardless if they respond positively or negatively, would you be surprised? Do you already know how your students are responding affectively to learning in your classroom? If not, don’t let the year come to an end until you do.

Here’s to memorable and powerful learning! Here’s to the great teachers and fantastic students who celebrate this every day!

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