Have you ever heard of Prezi? I hadn’t until I started searching for ways to bring my classroom into the 21st century.
I’ve been teaching middle school for 25 years. I’m credentialed to teach K-9th grades, but somehow, I’ve stayed with the crazy, hormone-infused, physical awkwardness times of grades 7 and 8. And most days, I love it.
When I’m in the classroom with my students, I see so much potential. These kids are ripe for change; they’re still not committed to much of anything, and most of them see their future spread wide open before them. It’s the perfect combination to see real human development.
When I’m in my groove in the classroom, the curriculum becomes a quest to combine not only the California state standards (yes, I believe in Common Core), but also to ignite my students’ passions. That can sometimes be a tricky combination, to be sure.
For reluctant readers, finding some sort of hook is key. This month, I’m introducing our next novel, John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck, but that’s often not enough to get kids to believe that what I’m asking them to read is actually something they will like.
So I’m taking a back-door approach. Using Prezi, my kids are becoming professional researchers.
Before we even checked out the book, I created (actually, updated) a research project designed to get them asking questions, thinking, designing and creating a presentation about pearls, pearl diving, scorpions, John Steinbeck, La Paz, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. They don’t quite know the connection to the novel yet, but they sure dug into these topics! Back in the day, we used to do this project creating handmade brochures. But now that I have enough Chromebooks for each kid in my classroom, the possibilities are endless – so we’re using Prezi.com, a cool website that combines elements of Google Slides and PowerPoint. It’s another tool for their educational toolbox, I say.
The best part, for me, is that my students are learning skills that they will take out of the classroom and into their lives. They’re collaborating with a partner online. They’re creating questions about things they don’t know and finding the answers. They’re designing a presentation combining visual and verbal elements, and they’re standing in front of their peers and presenting.
Some of them even dressed up for the occasion.
This is the kind of teaching I love – when I prepare an overarching idea, and the kids make it their own. I love their smiles, their laughter, their frustration, and their pride with what they’re doing. It makes teaching 13 year-olds a real treat.
If you’d like to read more about this project, visit The Educator’s Room using the link below. It’s a great place for all things related to education – great for parents and teachers, too.