Student Voice Shines with Project Based Learning: Igniting Empowerment and Instilling Empathy

Increasing student empowerment and engagement is wrapped up and delivered in “Life Changing Lessons“.  The gift of Project Based Learning (PBL) is one of intense impact… the kind that continues to give, as if you are unwrapping it for the first time throughout the entire journey.  It creates a student driven environment that is begging for more… more opportunity… more hours in a school day.

Project Based Learning is a connection beyond your four walls… a chance to open up the windows, blow off the door to learning, and ignite global impact with student empowerment!

I recently posted “A Walk In My Shoes” (One Ah Ha Moment within the Voice PBL) on twitter and have received countless DM’s asking how to get this VOICE PBL started.  So this one is for YOU!

The Voice PBL that I teach is one of great magnitude.  It covers concepts from every subject in a depth and understanding far beyond a worksheet.  This is a way to take Common Core Skills/Standards and light a fire under learning! Before the Driving Question is even asked, I hook them in like a pirate  …

It starts with the universal language… MUSIC!   

Students are given a choice to write/draw/sketch their interpretation on a variety of music shaped cutouts or use of poster paper to sketchnote

  • Allow students the freedom to personal space in the room… on floor if desired
  • Quiet space… lights out… reflection time!
  • Copy and paste each URL into google for each song
  • I do not show videos.  This is auditory only!

This is a quiet journey that typically lights up quickly because the students (UM… and ME) cannot contain ourselves… we end up singing and dancing… moving to the beat of our own hearts!

First up:

Man in the Mirror-From A Joyful Noise (It’s shorter than Michael Jackson’s version) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9paJyh8t_sE

This is a WOWZER!  Students stop in their own tracks when they realize that looking in a mirror can give them so many answers… so much POWER! (C-H-I-L-L-S)

Count on Me- Bruno Mars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc6T9iY9SOU

Every student responds to this song thinking of a time they needed someone or were there for someone.  This is the moment most of them start putting the pieces of their voice together.  

Firework Kidz Bop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2s-9Kyumgo

Thank you Katy Perry!  What happens when you don’t light a firework?  That’s right, NOTHING!  Let that speak to each of us… we must light learning up if we want to see what is inside!  Fireworks splatter their drawings with thoughts and ideas coming from within! 

Fight Song Rachel Platten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8qDOGLCSFo

Drop the Mic… this song allows every student and every teacher to connect!  This is the song that opens up their little world to you.  Are they struggling?  academically? behaviorally? socially?  Is there worry on their mind?  Are they scared of something? Do they lack self-esteem?  Are they the “little girl with the crooked pigtails?” (Getting R.E.A.L. with Tara Martin)

I actually play 7-10 different songs and it is never enough, but the song pick changes from year to year because my students change and I need to make sure that my choices will resonate with each of them.

#Sketchnotes

So about that Driving Question…

DQ: Why Might Having A Voice Matter?

Empowerment/Empathy/Citizenship/Government/Family/Bullying/Debate

Where do we go from here?

Students pick a song and add creative movement to the lyrics.  They now understand that they can express themselves in many ways.  This is one more life changing moment for them.

This is a video of my amazing students from last year interpreting “The Fight Song”.  (My current class in interpreting “The Man In the Mirror” which they will definitely post on YouTube soon!)

Is this “just a free for all” Ahhhh… NO!  This is a creative way to connect an incredible amount of skill in a unique way to impact all students.  Skills are endless!

ELA:

  • Books from Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days to The Invisible Boy by Trudy Luwig
    • This is where “Walk In My Shoes” was created.  This very lesson is a blog in itself… soon!
  • Choosing a book that shows your voice in a way you haven’t been able to… we end up reading 30+ books in a 4 week time period!
  • Use song lyrics to discuss parts of speech (highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.)

Math:

  • Creating Conjectures and Arguments
  • Collaborating and critically thinking to solve a problem
  • Writing and reasoning

History:

  • Choosing a person of impact such as Rosa Parks, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King Jr., President Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, and so many more.

Government:

  • Voting
  • Being a Good Citizen
  • Debate

Let’s not forget that doors are blown off to this process!  Students learn (to):

  • blog
  • code
  • design
  • create
  • paint
  • draw
  • dance
  • sing
  • poetry
  • build
  • invent
  • 4Cs

This list is endless because students CHOOSE their own project that in turn answers the Driving Question.  They also choose their Authentic Audience to which they powerhouse to impress!  My former students created this video showcasing ALL of their voices and then chose YouTube as their “Authentic Audience”.

I can’t wait to see what this year’s students choose!

While leading my book chat on “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess, I posted this reflection for my fellow colleagues to ponder:

Untitled presentation
Teach Like A Pirate Book Chat #tlap

     If there were a “Life Changing Lesson” that “I could sell tickets for” I believe this is the one!  I hope that this was what YOU needed to get started…

Go light them up and find out what’s inside! #VOICE and #CHOICE

 

Um, Are We Dancing to the Same Music?

Did you ever start dancing and before you knew it you were stepping on toes?  Or yours were being stepped on.  Just watch a room full of kids dance… are they really dancing to the same song?  One is rapping, one is flailing about, another looks like they are doing a new twist to the tango, while someone else is flying solo… sitting in a corner just moving his head up and down.  But wait… isn’t this what it’s all about?  So why is everyone shooting the look of… um, are we dancing to the same music? 

EMBRACING DIFFERENCES-EMPOWERING THE SOUL

Growing up, I was different in many ways.  I was a ball of energy in a room full of compliance.  I saw magenta when everyone else was talking about red.  My questions and ideas were racking up in my head faster then I could keep track of them.  I was the kid that failed the history class when the only thing I had to do was stay awake to maintain the A that was gifted to me.  The kid who put a new spin on a project that didn’t match the teacher’s vision. 

Not to mention my RED hair… which was not my favorite attribute at all.  I was a kid that just wanted to fit in.  How do you do that when you are so different?  My differences outweighed my similarities.  Why was this so scary for me… for everyone?  I was the 80’s kid with a different last name when divorce was still taboo.  I was the kid that picked out school clothes in July so that my parents could lay them away at Hill’s Department Store and hope (work hard enough) to pay them off by Labor Day.  Most often they no longer fit and the outfit I looked forward to was no longer available.  My family tried.  My family was different. 

My family danced to the same music as everyone else so why did it feel like my toes were always stepped on? 

Does anyone hear me?  Do I have a voice? 

Maybe I was the rebel searching for the next cause. 

If you won’t listen, maybe I need to show you.  That I did! 

You said zig, I tried out the zag. 

You said I could only do one, I tried 10. 

You said I can’t and I proved I can! 

You showed me a statistic and I created new data!  

I love interpreting music.  Understanding my students.  My favorite opportunity to do that is with Project Based Learning.  Playing songs and allowing my students to let it reach down in their soul… to write what they feel it means to them.  Not their friend.  Not their family.  I want to know them!  Do they see magenta? 

With passion projects I feel their voice is heard.  I feel I create an atmosphere of respect and trust.  We each have a different story so why is it that 8 hours a day we must “act” like we come from the same mold?  Our students must trust us in order to gift that to others.  Is our teaching meant for the moment or for a lifetime?  I choose lifetime.

My journey is real.  Never easy.  Created by other hands, along with my own.  I am a dreamer.  A believer in all good.  I am a fighter.  Um, and yes, I am dancing to the same music… just my own beat!   

Are you a fighter?  How do you interpret the lyrics to this incredible song? 

Rachel Platten-Fight Song

The Ingenious Lab interpretation #voiceandchoice