Students at Triangle Learning Community Middle School will begin most mornings by reading the news from a variety of sources — New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, NPR, etc…
Each time a student reads an article, she or he will create a Google Earth place mark to log the article. The student will also write notes about what he/she found most interesting about the article, and will include a link to the article in the notes of the place mark.
To make the previous paragraph less abstract, here’s a 7-minute video that shows the process we might go through to bring to life this article about coal use in Poland from the New York Times in early November, 2013:
Students would typically read about three articles each morning on their own. To start with in sixth grade, one of the three articles might be selected by a teacher, but as students learn judgment, they will start to select their own articles to read.
Once students have read and logged at least two or three articles each — a process that will take about 45 minutes — we will put our computers away so that we can focus on listening to each other.
We will sit in a circle, and each of the students will take a turn making a 30- to 45-second “pitch” to the group about why we should discuss his/her article for our 30+ minute discussion time.
Once everyone has made a pitch (i.e. practiced persuasive speaking in a public setting), the group will vote. If two articles seem equally popular, the two teachers can split the students into two groups so more students can discuss the article they find most interesting.
If a group selected the “coal use in Poland” article, questions that might come up include: what alternatives does Poland have? How does Poland’s energy use compare to that of China, India and the US? How does the use of coal fit into the broader question of world-wide energy use?
These questions would be brainstormed and discussed to the extent possible in 30-40 minutes. We will use computers as thoughtful research aides when needed, but most students won’t have computers in front of them for the discussion. The idea is for all of us to be as present with each other as possible.
After the discussion, each student will go back on his her computer and write for 15-20 minutes to reflect on the most interesting thing he/she learned from the morning session. That might be something that came out of the discussion, or it might be something from one of the articles that the student read and found compelling, but that the group did not choose to discuss.
By 10 a.m. students will have practiced reading quality resources, expanding their global perspective, listening to classmates — both as everyone delivers a “pitch” and in the discussion that follows, speaking in public — again both when each student makes his/her “pitch” and in the discussion that follows, and writing a reflection about what she/he learned from the morning’s session. Most of those reflections will be shared internally with classmates, and if time permits, we will each take time to look at what a few classmates found most interesting.
At the end of each week, students would choose a few reflections to revise and publish on the school’s external blog so that people around the world can see what topics TLC students are learning about.
The idea behind all elements of TLC is to showcase what’s possible in learning today.
For context, here’s what an entire day at TLC might look like:
Math will proceed at a student’s own pace, and students will soon learn to assign themselves appropriately challenging math problems so that they can complete at least a traditional ninth grade math education by the end of eighth grade. Several projects will address fundamental science concepts. In addition, regular PSST sessions will help students collaborate in problem solving and pattern recognition as they ponder the “why?” questions of math and science.
If you are interested in learning more, please visit Triangle Learning Community, or email Steve Goldberg: MrGoldberg [at] gmail.
Also, if an ad appears below, it’s not connected to TLC — we will be moving entries from this blog to a new website soon, and that site will be ad-free.