Something Cool From My Classroom: Students Creating Utopias

Honestly, I don’t think we give teenagers enough credit.

They really have some cool ideas about the world. They recognize what’s messed up, what’s good, and what needs to be changed. They really do.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 25 years around teenagers every day. Many, many people think I’m crazy. They constantly ask me how I do it, why I do it and end by saying something like, “You’re a saint. I wouldn’t have the patience.”

the-giver-community-and-elders-bwAnd they’re right – about the patience part. Teaching 12 and 13-year-olds does require patience. And flexibility, consistency, a sense of humor, and enough humbleness to accept that I don’t know everything. Nothing has brought this home more strongly than the advent of using technology in our classrooms.

I’m a digital immigrant. I grew up with a typewriter and a phone that plugs into the wall. It was a big deal to get a typewriter with a correcting tape for my 18th birthday, and my first cell phone was as big a box as my son’s last pair of Nikes. I never imagined teaching English and relying on a keyboard and a screen to let imaginations soar.

But I’m open-minded, curious, and willing to be vulnerable in my classroom. I want my students to know that I value what they’re thinking and how they communicate.

This year, like most, we started off by reading Lois Lowry’s 1994 dystopian novel, The Giver. It’s always a crowd pleaser – I love the idea that it makes kids think about their communities, their families, and the danger of both sameness and ostracizing the ‘other’.

the giver

Before they read a single page, however, I have them create their own version of Utopia. With just a few simple guidelines and some directed work time, 105 8th graders solved problems of our government, created clean environments, manufactured jobs and equality in economics, developed responsibilities, educational systems and diversity in their societies using Google Slideshow.

utopias

Their vision of the future, creativity of their communities and the honesty in their presentations made me cry.

These innocent teenagers are full of ideas. They’re brimming with innovation, passion and problem-solving.

If you’d like to see more of their Utopias, click over to The Educator’s Room, where my post ‘Creating Utopia: How Kids See The World’ is featured this week.

Or better yet, ask the kids in your life how they see Utopia – and make sure you sit back and listen when they stun you with their imaginations.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Something Cool From My Classroom: Interactive Student Notebooks

 

interactive notebooks

This year I’m celebrating 25 years of teaching! I started as a 7th grade English teacher back in the 90s, and have shifted around between 5th (briefly-very briefly after Lily was born), 7th, 8th and 9th grades –  but my favorite is 8th grade. I know, I’m a little crazy, but I love their goofiness and willingness to try almost anything.

I’ve started writing weekly articles for the website The Educator’s Room, and it’s been great fun sharing my thoughts, ideas and stories about teaching with their audience, mostly made up of teachers and those who spend their days focused on education. I love their philosophy of ‘Empowering Teachers as the Experts”; there’s a lot of really cool and thoughtful teaching happening out there!

interactive notebooks

This week’s post, “Are You Using Interactive Student Notebooks? You Should Be!” showcases something cool my students have been doing for the last several years. To my experienced teacher friends this might flashback to the 1980s, but if it’s good, it’s good!

interactive notebooks

Swing on over to The Educator’s Room and catch a glimpse of all the wonderful teaching – and talk about education going on in our country, straight from the people doing the work!

To view all my writing for The Educator’s Room, click here.

interactive notebooks

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
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