Transformation through Collaboration

Our students at Ely Memorial Middle School, recently developed a three-layer project with the Big Idea of "transformation" in mind. The process started with students selecting (in a small group) an example of transformation that exists within their world. Some students selected more common examples like the transformation of a bud into a flower, while others students chose to convey the transformation that a carrot goes through as it takes its journey through the digestive system. Students were then guided through the process of developing a Diamante poem that would reflect the stages of transformation, using sensory details and descriptive language. From here, students began planning out their stop animation film by mapping out the frames in pencil first, while also making lists of supplies they would need to create their video. I found it intriguing to observe how students communicated with one another, and how they resolved conflict as it arose, as our expectation was that each group would develop one stop motion video as a cohesive group. The final stage of this collaboration project was to develop a GarageBand track that would accurately reflect the idea of transformation that was conveyed in the video. Students really enjoyed the hands-on approach to learning that took place at every stage of this project. It was so enthralling to see students engaged and focused on the task at hand. Whether students were building the set for their video, or carefully selecting specific words and phrases for their Diamante, they continued to ask questions that would further their learning and find new ways to resolve the problems or mishaps they faced. 

This lesson was co-taught by myself and two other teachers (the MS/HS music and art teachers), and it was an impactful learning experience. Through the planning and teaching stages of this unit, I am beginning to realize the importance of recognizing individual strengths within a group. It is equally important to be  aware of your own strengths and areas of growth  -- to recognize how you plan, perform, teach most efficiently, and then finally communicate this with your group members so that others can honor and support you in that process. Just as we all learn differently, we all plan and teach differently.  In order to provide meaningful opportunities for students to work in a collaborative way, we as adults need to model collaborative planning for students. This isn't always the easiest task when most teachers have so many responsibilities on any given day, in addition to teaching. I believe that this experience simply "skimmed the surface" in terms of exploring collaboration planning and teaching within my professional life, and I look forward to being part of other projects that provide me with the opportunity to learn, plan and implement alongside other teachers. 

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