Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Accidental CBL Experience

Sometimes the best lessons don’t come from our plan books and my first experience with Challenge Based Learning has been just that. In Challenge Based Learning students are required work collaboratively to solve a real world problem. With these challenges the students work on variety of academic skills and many higher level thinking skills. The framework to this curriculum consist of the following:

-Big Idea: a broad concept that can be narrowed down by asking a questions and exploring its different aspects.

-Essential Question(s): Comes out of the Big Idea and helps identify what is important and helps narrow down the topic and define a manageable idea.

-The Challenge: Comes out of the essential question(s) in students are asked to create a solution that can result in a measurable action or actions.

-Guiding Questions: These questions are generated by the students and are based on what they need to know to solve the problem.

-Guiding Activities: Activities to help students solve their answer the guiding questions and gather resources.

-Solution(s): Should be student generated, require student action, thoughtful, clear, concrete and publishable in one form or another.

For me this all started on the last day of FETC 2009 when a speakers mentioned the ACOT 2 or Challenge Based Learning during is breakout session. This was just a brief description of CBL and I loved the idea. However, at the time I believed it only applied for secondary students. Then in early April I listened to Episode 4 of The Always on Podcast produced by Katie Morrow and Michelle Bourgeois. In that episode they had a virtual round table discussion with other educators on their experiences with Challenge Based Learning. After that I really started to explore the CBL Website and I began to think that even though this has been done mainly in High Schools that with some modifications it could be used in elementary school too. In my case,  I work with Gifted students and I really felt that CBL could be a good fit. Then this summer, I was in contact with Katie Morrow, who was a pilot teacher for the program in the 2008-09 school year, about the process and advice. She was wonderful and encouraging about my endeavor. My favorite piece of advice I received from her was to not over engineer the project too much.

With that, I went ahead and incorporated it into my plans for this year in grades four and five. However, to my surprise the journey started with a group of third grade girls on their very first day of gifted. We were sharing the book The English Roses by Madonna. This is a very sweet book about a group of girls that excludes another girl due to their jealousy and how the girls learn that behavior was wrong. Afterwards the girls began discussing some of their issues with the problem of cliques and how girls hurt each other. As the conversation continued it turned to where they had seen the same theme on TV and in the movies. I then asked them two questions: Did they want to do something about it? If so, what were they going to do? When the answer to the first was YES and the answer to the second was we don't know. I figured it was time to introduce CBL. So we visited the CBL website together and started working our way through the process.

Follow our the progress of our project in these two places:
Stop Girl Bullying Wiki

"Gabbing with the Gifted-3rd Grade Project Edition"

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