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Doing Different: Project 180, Day 8

Well, finally, a full week ahead. With the relationship and mindset foundation down, it’s time to start building, time to start learning. But I have to approach learning differently this year. With A’s in hand and armed with choice, my students will likely not respond well to business as usual. I have to find ways to lead my learners in ways that are more engaging and relevant. I have to do different. Here are a few things that I am trying as I attempt to re-imagine learning in 211 this year.


Last week, in keeping with the whole journey/adventure approach, I came up with  the idea of the “quest question,” a question that provided the purpose and pursuit of our learning experience for the week. By the end of the week, it had evolved into the “QUESTion,” and now, after some further thought this weekend its current manifestation will be the “Learning QUESTion(s).”

Here is the process. I will post the question(s) on the board for the week. It will first serve as an entry point into the learning as I ask teams to consider and discuss the question. It will then be followed by what I have come to call a “Quick Quest,” which will generally be a ten-minute team task without my help or input. Next we will do a number of learning activities over the week that deepen and reinforce related skills and concepts. Finally, individually, the kids will answer the “Learning QUESTion(s)” in their weekly reflection.

Here are my goals for the approach. I want learning to be an experience. So, each week I will hope to make the experience more engaging with the novelty of the QUEST approach. In terms of learner-content interface, I want there to be an investigative initial experience with the content without my help, prior to my input–a quest of sorts. Perhaps, above all, I want there to be purpose to what we are doing. Daniel Pink suggests that motivation has three components: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I have given the necessary autonomy. I am jumping mastery–for now, and I am providing an opportunity for kids to discover purpose. Of course, we will come back to, and work hard towards, mastery. But I believe mastery might be better placed, and better achieved, after purpose. The “what and how” of learning seem to come more readily after the “why” has been established.

This week’s Learning QUESTIONS.


  • Why do we write in sentences?

  • How can our learning stories help us understand our own mindsets? 

  • Can we prevent injustice, or is it an inevitable circumstance of society?



Today, we will begin our pursuit of the first, “Why do we write in sentences?” The “Quick Quest” will take the following form.

QUICK QUEST: What is a sentence? As a team, you have 10 minutes to create an informational poster. You have one sheet of paper and an assortment of markers. GO! Sorry, I am not available for help.

I will then step back and see what happens. At the very least, I hope they come up with a definition. But, I hope they also consider exploring and reporting on the different sentence kinds and types, etc. I will encourage them to be resourceful, which means that they use their phones, which is not allowed without permission, but since I am “out of the room….” At the end of the ten minutes, the kids will share their findings with the rest of the class. Through this approach, I am not only activating prior knowledge, but I am also getting an opportunity to diagnose where my kids are with sentences, which helps inform my approach, my instruction. This allows me to learn from the kids before they learn from me. Too often, we teachers assume that teaching is talking and that learning is listening, but I’ve come to believe, it’s more than this alone. It’s complex. It’s messy. It’s different. And that is why I am choosing to do different.

Of course, I am not inventing a new wheel here. I am inventing nothing. This stuff, to varying degrees is and has been out there. I am just re-imagining how to roll the wheel on a new path, a path no longer guided nor restricted by grades. I cannot change it, if I don’t change it. Do different. It might be the difference.

Happy Monday, all.


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