Over the last couple of months my students have been in a unit called Revolutions! There were many different topics that the students studied over the course of the unit. We began with the Scientific Revolution and progressed all the way to suffrage in the Progressive Era. One of the assignments that the students had to do was a teach-a-class. In this assignment the students needed to teach their classmates about a topic that they were interested in. The lesson had to be 20 minutes long and needed to have some sort of activity in it.
Two students sent me a proposal stating that they wanted to do their teach-a-class on Baroque music. They said that they wanted to do a PowerPoint presentation, play a piece of music on their violins, and the have a quiz at the end. While this wasn't a terrible idea for such a short lesson, I asked them how they could make it more interactive for their classmates. While they were starting to think about my question, I asked them if they had thought about having their classmates play the piece of music with them. They looked back at me like I was crazy, and asked, "How can that happen? Not everyone knows how to play an instrument."
I opened up my iPad and went to my GarageBand app. I showed them the smart strings part of the app, and how they could play an instrument just by tapping a chord on the screen. Their eyes lit up and I could see their minds racing about the possibilities. They loved the idea and grabbed a school iPad to play around and explore the possibilities for their lesson. After a day or so, they came back to me and said that they were going to try and use the app in their presentation.
A couple of weeks later it was time for them to do their lesson. I was extremely excited to see what exactly they had come up with. They came in early to rearrange the tables in the room into two rows, set up their slides, got out their instruments, and then passed out iPads to the class. As they went through their slide show, they gave lots of great information and played different parts from some Baroque composers. When it came time for the class to use the iPads, there was a lot of excitement in the room. The girls had written out the notes that each row needed to play. The first row of seats were the 1st violins, and the second row were 2nd violins. The students placed the transcribed notes for the class on the screen, and went over the instructions. What happened next was a little bit of chaos and a tremendous amount of magic.
The class began playing their iPads on their desks, laps, and some were even pretending that they are actual violins. The level of student engagement in this activity was sky high. Several of the students wanted to keep playing the piece after the presentation was finished. The students were talking about it for the rest of the day, and other students from other classes were jealous that they didn't get that same teach-a-class. As a teacher we all want to encourage students to think outside the box, engage the multiple intelligences, and remember what they learned. I can honestly say that all students involved in this lesson accomplished those goals. I am amazed everyday at the power of student centered learning, and what a little encouragement and scaffolding can do.