Class today was spent circulating to check in with each of my Precalculus groups on their projects. I could hear one of my colleagues’ voices in my head as I spoke with a pair of students, who sounded a bit overwhelmed. They had spent last night watching some videos and reading articles about the math of rowing, and they were feeling daunted by taking on this task. Their dissatisfaction was visible in their body language.
As I channeled the voice of my colleague Chris, I was remembering witnessing him brainstorming with a student, as the boy began to develop a project. Chris pressed the kid to explain why he wanted to study a particular topic. Then, he threw a bunch of ideas out for the student to consider. The boy’s face did not change at all for the first few minutes of conversation, but then, as the exchange continued, I could see the moment when the right idea hit home. The kid’s face lit up, and the project plan was in place.
Today, as I spoke to these two students, I started by asking them what they wanted to explore. “You mean, about anything?” one student asked. I said yes. Pretty quickly, they came back to tennis and something they had suggested earlier in their brainstorming. We talked through it more together to generate the kernel of a project idea, and they were off.
Thanks, Chris, for encouraging me to keep asking the questions to help students take ownership of their own learning.
(Here are some of their ideas from class.)