I agree with my fellow blogger Jeremy about these Seven "C's" of Education. In previous years, I have used them with various projects while still being able to "cover" the required standards and curriculum content.
One project really stands out to me, one that I had great success in planning, integrating, and delivering. Of course, there was much complaining and whining, but in the end, my students were grateful. In compacted form, here is what I did:
Students were to pick a novel to read. The novel choices we had for the grade level were pretty abysmal, so I was determined to have students enjoy reading and still learn about the elements of fiction. I also wanted their choices to have a purpose, so the requirement was that the main character had to be vastly different from them. For example, if they were a young African American boy who lived with his father and played hockey, he could not read about someone like that; a better choice would be a novel about a young Asian boy who plays guitar. Some students chose to read about homelessness, some about other cultures, and others about the opposite gender. The librarian assissted students by finding novels that they would be interested in but would also fulfill the requirements.
As they read, the students were to keep a reading log, taking special note of what they were learning about the other culture and/or lifestyle of the main character. A few times a week we would share some of the more startling and surprising finds. Often this amounted to "This person is much more like myself than I thought" comments.
Another component was to make a trip to a cultural event around town which related. Some students went to a homeless shelter, some to a Holocaust memorial museum, and others to a special collection at the museum. I gave students plenty of time on this aspect, also ensuring that they had a vacation time period over which to get there so that parents could take them (I conducted this project at the junior high I taught at).
After the reading, they formulated opinionated thesis statements in order to do a persuasive research report. This is much more interesting than the "I did my report on sea lions" essays. Even if students had selected similar cultural books, they had vastly different opinions. This made for much more interesting reading once I started evaluating them.
The final step was to give an oral report on their findings, incorporating their reading log, their cultural experience, and their research report. They also needed a visual aid of some sort: poster, flyer, power point, etc. Some students refused to do this step despite it being quite a large portion of their quarter grade.
So in filling the Seven "C's" I would say I accomplished Creativity by allowing students choice in what they could do. Ultimately, what they ended up doing had so much more to it than if I had assigned Great Expectations. Also, the visual aid was aimed at creativity.
There was plenty of Critical Thinking. Pulling all their ideas together for the writing and then the oral delivery was thoroughly full of thinking. The riubrics I designed for each aspect laid things out clealy so that they knew what had to be done but it was not so spelled out that they wouldn't be doing any thinking.
As for Collaboration, the students worked with the librarians, with me, with thier peers, and with their families (many parents were sure to tell me that they were glad they took their child to cultural event). So many times learning seems to take place in the so-called vacuum of the classroom.
Certainly obvious is the Cross Cultural Understanding component. The real fun for me was seeing interest begin after the oral presentations. It piqued the interest of their fellow peers so that others might visit a homeless shelter or go to the African American exhibit at the museum.
Often overlooked in the standards in my district for English is Communication Skills. Despite, as I mentioned, some students not presenting orally, the ones who did knew the expectations: don't read directly from a written script; be sure to look at the audience (more than just me, the teacher); pause, breath, slow down; and, answer questions. Overall, the marks for the speeches were high and well deserved.
Using the Internet helped in the achieving Computing and ITC Skills. But also, they used the Reader's Guide books to find magazine articles --some students coming to prefer that method-- and using the online card catalog. They also used the Internet to find local cultural events. Sometimes this required using wide and varied keyword seaches as the name of the city and homelessness did not often result in what they wanted. Learning the skill of the good search was valuable.
Finally, Career and Learning Self-Reliance Skills mightnot be so obvious. It is my hope that the skills they learned through putting it all together helped this aspect. I also hope that a few saw some startling new doors pushed wide open for them to pursue career wise. And I also hope that the students learned much about tolerance.
At the end of that school year, I recieved a kind letter from a student telling me how much he felt he had grown that year, how much he had learned about people different from him, how much wider his circle of knowledge now was. He was grateful to me for opening those doors to him. The funny thing is: He opened them himself; I just guided him to some good doors to try.