Sunday, December 2, 2012

Student-Designed Learning: The Frisch LEADs Project

One of my goals this year was to introduce more student-designed learning into my curriculum. I discussed the possibility of doing so with my principal and fellow English teachers at The Frisch School, and we decided the best place for a student-designed learning project was in AP English Literature. That's because the course doesn't demand that a particular body of knowledge be taught, but rather it requires students to learn skills that can be applied to all works of poetry and prose.

I sat down with my fellow AP English Literature teachers, Rabbi Daniel Rosen and Mrs. Ruth Wang-Birnbaum, over the course of the summer and at the beginning of the school year, and we hammered out the requirements of the assignment. We also decided on a name for the project: Frisch LEADs -- Learning. Exploring. Analyzing. Designing:

Frisch LEADs Project Requirements

Rabbi Rosen, Mrs. Wang-Birnbaum and I decided that in order to chart the progress and increase the digital literacy of each student, we would have the students blog about their Frisch LEADs project. We therefore put together a set of blog requirements and deadlines for the students:

Blog Requirements and Deadlines

Because students weren't familiar with blogging, we created an Introduction to Blogging post:

What Makes a Good Blog Post

Most students had severe allergic reactions ;) to the assignment when we gave it to them, but they have since calmed down and are progressing well with their projects. Here are some really good blogs students have created for the project:

Sample Student Blog #1:

R. Freilich has a fun and meaningful Frisch LEADs project. She's going to take her family's passion for gangster movies and research society’s perception of the mafia/organized crime. The investigation will include an in depth analysis of the psychology of crime and family. What I like about R.'s project is that she took her own family's interest in mob films and made it into an investigation of a dysfunctional and violent family system. Check out R.'s blog and see her thoughtful posts:

R. Freilich's Blog

Sample Student Blog #2:

Eddie is not only doing a great job blogging about his actual project; he is also making use of the blog medium to express his funny, whimsical and sophisticated views of the world. Find Eddie's very amusing blog here:

Eddie Maza's Blog

Sample Student Blog #3:

Finally, Penina's blog: I have to warn you that Penina is the type of student who does %200 of the work, so be prepared when you read her blog to be dumbfounded by the amount of information in it.

Another fact you should be aware of is that Penina is working with Eddie on the Frisch LEADs project, and in deference to the policy of full disclosure, I must reveal that I've been working with these two students since last year on their topic of education reform, as they founded RealSchool with me. RealSchool is an academic program that advocates and models education reform by having students engage in self-directed, whole-person learning.

Penina's Blog

In subsequent blog posts, I'll address some of the issues the Frisch LEADs assignment has raised, but I want to end by stating that when I was figuring out my grades for the quarter, I found that I had a much fuller picture of what each senior in my AP English Literature was like than I had of students in other classes. The Frisch LEADs project has given me a window into the personality, interests and passions of the students, enabling me to see them not as English students but as whole people. It's also fascinating and enlightening to gain a sense of the unique voices that are emerging in the students' blog posts. I'm excited about what the Frisch LEADs project is eliciting in my seniors and look forward to what my students and I will continue to learn!

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