Teach ME Something

Teach Me Something projects gets the kids thinkingOne of my goals as a teacher is to bring out the creativity and joy of learning out in students.  I like to pose questions, get them to think, and have them create.  I mean, that's what all of us want to do, right?
But, honestly, it seems as though somewhere along the lines, the inquiry and ingenuity that kids should intrinsically show has disappeared.  They simply want to be TOLD what to do at all times.  

I understand why.  In an age of testing and dog and pony shows and the need to "get stuff done", it has become easier for me everyone to just tell the kids what to do and be done with it.  

But here is my problem. 

The kids that sit in front of me have become regurgitators.  They wait for ME to give them directions.  They wait for ME to show them examples.  They wait for ME to lay everything out on the table for them.  Notice how it is ME that is doing all the work.  The kids need ME to do their thinking.

Well, one day a few years ago, I got tired of that.  I was sitting in front of my class discussing photosynthesis and I asked them to show me what they knew about it.  Do you know what the response was?

Blank stares.

They were waiting for ME to tell them exactly how I wanted them to show me what they knew.  They were waiting for ME to take all the thinking out so that they could just plug in information.  And I just had it.  I said, "Go back to your seats and create something, ANYTHING, that shows me what you know about photosynthesis."

The kids staggered back to their seats, in a daze.  That one direction threw them for a loop.  

But something magical happened.  

The kids began to work.  They began to talk with each other and brainstorm ways they could teach me about the topic at hand.  They asked for construction paper and poster board.  They began cutting and gluing.  And they came up with this.

Teach Me Something Projects that the kids work on to teach the teacher about a subject

And this.

And this.

Teach Me Something projects for upper elementary

I was blown away! 

Why was I blown away?  The kids came up with these ideas on their own.  I didn't tell them what to do, they just began making things.  Some took out their computers and created Google Slide presentations.  Others made posters with flaps. Some wrote narrative stories or informational books.  There were pop up pages and diagrams and game boards and costumes and models.

And so I did it again.  This time, though, I created a rubric so that the kids knew what they would be graded on.  The rubric was generic enough so as not to hinder their creativity (it didn't say what kind of project they should make) but gave them guidelines to up the quality (for example, it required above and beyond information that wasn't a simple google search)  For the second go around, I asked the kids to teach me about the Periodic Table of Elements.  

And I got this.

Then Aquaponics.

And Severe Weather.

Each time I asked them to teach me something, the projects became more and more detailed and elaborate.  The kids put time and effort into creating.  I did notice that they were getting into a rut of copying ideas from others, so each time we would brainstorm different types of projects they could create.  Many of them would choose a different type of project that they didn't think others would make.  And each time the kids turned something in, they proved to me that they really do have that creativity and ingenuity inside of them, that they don't have to just regurgitate information but can think and design and present all on their own.  

Which is exactly what I wanted all along.

Do you want all of my lessons, forms, and rubrics for this project?  You can grab them here.  Or you can just ask your kids to "Teach Me Something." 
But really if you want the rubrics and LESSON PLANS...I already made them for you here ;) 

1 comment

  1. The "Teach Me About..." project is an amazing idea! I tried it for the first time with my students recently and asked them to teach me about an ecosystem (they picked theirs from a hat) and they totally blew me away with what they created! I have students creating posters, reports, skits, commercials, t-shirts, dioramas, and even a documentary. They love it! While it was scary for me to give up so much control at first, I'm so glad I did. Thank you for sharing!


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