Course Four; Week Three
Designing Deep Learning Tasks
In this week’s resources, we continued to read “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy. In chapter three, the focus was on designing deeper learning tasks to engage students in not just curriculum content, but also real-world learning. The chapter shared many wonderful examples of deeper learning tasks that different teachers, students, and schools had participated in.
The one that I found the most interesting was about the fifth and sixth-grade students who after learning about the hydrosphere were asked to apply their new knowledge in a way that would benefit a community. Working together, the students found ways to raise money to buy an Eco-Dome toilet for a rural Zambian village. Their hard work, success, and enthusiasm led the whole school to become involved with further support of this community.
I found this to be such an amazing example of how students can use their learning in a truly substantial way.
Deeper Learning in My Classroom
Reading this chapter had me thinking about my students’ most recent unit of inquiry on economics and trade. While not a perfect example of deeper learning and not nearly as well-developed as the examples in “A Rich Seam”, I feel that we did a pretty good job of selecting a task that deepened their learning in a more authentic way.
While this is my first year at my new school, it is my fifth year teaching fourth grade in a PYP classroom based on US standards. It is also my fourth year with a unit of inquiry, based on trade and economics. In previous years, we focused on historical elements of trade, such as the Silk Road. This year since we wanted the students to learn about the logistics of producing goods and services and the responsibilities of consumers, we decided to have students take on these roles to learn from first-hand experience.
As I spoke about in my previous post, most of our unit revolved around the students working in groups as a small business, creating a product to produce, and then selling their items at a “bazaar” that was open to their parents and the other elementary students.
We really wanted to use this type of learning task, as many of our students have expressed a desire to be business owners when they grow up. Now, they have had a tiny bit of hands-on experience with what it means to have a business.
We built in a lot of student agency and choice to make this experience as meaningful as possible. Students were allowed to choose their groupmates, then they were given several days to explore ideas for goods and or services that they might want to offer at the bazaar.
In my class, I had a lemonade stand, a cookie shop, two different types of candy being sold, and stress balls for sale.
Working as a team, the students had to research the resources they would need to produce their products, determine production costs and selling prices in order to turn a profit. They then planned out their production timeline and got to work making their product. As they moved past production, they learned about advertising and created their own advertisements to garner consumer attention around the school.
On the day of the bazaar, the students set up their booths with decor they had designed, handled the money for the transactions, and provided customer service. Each child was also given time to go do their own shopping.
Throughout this unit, the students were actively engaged and excited about their work. As their teacher, I was able to take a step back and let them drive their learning. I was always available if there were questions or concerns, and I met with each group frequently to be sure they were making progress, but each time I really felt they were handling the responsibility well.
How was the Bazaar?
Now that we have held our bazaar, I can share that it was a great success! We had so many happy customers and each of my groups were able to sell all of their products. But most importantly the students learned a lot and had a ton of fun. Between the two fourth-grade classrooms, they made over 2,600 RMB (400 USD).
This coming week, the students will reflect on what they learned through this project, each group will compare their earnings to their production costs so they can determine how much profit they made. Then as a grade level, the students will decide what they would like to do with the money.
There have been a few ideas shared so far. Some ideas are rewards to the children for their hard work, like a pizza party. Other ideas benefit the school community, such as buying more playground toys or equipment. What I am personally hoping for is the idea to donate the money to a community charity. A few of the students had older siblings who recently volunteer at an animal shelter, so they feel motivated to donate their money to help the animals.
We will decide by popular vote next week. Once we have decided, I will make sure to share their choice in a later post.