Skip to main content

Choose Your Own Adventure

My classes this week have been awesome. Like, the kind of awesome that makes you a bit sad that a particular lesson and/or unit is coming to an end. So, unlike my usual posts, I am excited to share what I observed in my own classes this week as I watched students get excited to write a narrative story. That's right...I said excited. Read on to see how and why this phenomenon happened.

Usually, this unit is not my favorite. Usually, I struggle to decide if my lessons and activities are enough to engage and inspire. Usually, I see very similar student artifacts although the prompt offers variety. Well, this time...I took a know, tried something new. Instead of making assumptions about its success, I just decided to jump in and make it my own. I was honest with my students that this activity was new and that I didn't know how it would go. I am thrilled to share that the risk was well worth it because my students are energized, working hard, and have been implementing two of the most important skills in a student-centered classroom every day this week: Creating and collaborating. I mean, c'mon...I think that calls for a boomshakalaka.

In the past, I've taught narrative writing over the course of a week, and students concluded the mini-unit by writing a personal, narrative essay. This assignment was always a great way to start the year, as it helped me get to know my students. This year, I went in a different direction using Flipgrid to get to know my students, and we dove right into our first unit and novel. Not wanting to eliminate narrative instruction, I remembered an awesome idea I got last spring when I visited Google Chicago to learn more about Google Applied Digital Skills. Unfamiliar with Applied Digital Skills? It is a "free online curriculum that can be accessed by individual learners or used in a classroom setting. Project-based units help students practice digital skills while using Google G Suite for Education applications." (Common Sense Education)

The curriculum is quite impressive and covers a wide range of digital skills for students to develop and utilize. The best can incorporate these impressive lessons into your own instruction and content. For example, since my students were doing narrative writing, I decided to use the If-Then Adventure Stories curriculum to teach not only narrative writing but also digital collaboration, presentation formatting, and slide hyperlinks. I paired my own instruction with the video-based lessons offered by Applied Digital Skills. It was almost like having a rock-star co-teacher in the class with me the entire week. Here's how it works for the classroom: After signing in, educators can create classes and then invite students to their class using a code. From there, teachers can see the students' progress and reflections through the teacher settings. The lessons can be student-paced or paced by the teacher, and I decided to show the videos to the whole class and then let them work with their partner to create their projects.

So...let's get to the good stuff. The If-Then Adventure Story curriculum is awesome because it asks students to get creative by creating their own choose-your-own-adventure style story while working in a group to collaborate and make the story visually appealing. The students start by brainstorming in Google Docs and then use Slides to write the story and link to different scenarios. Let me tell class has been booming with energy all week as students work with a partner to brainstorm, make decisions, and write their stories. They actually complained that class was over "too fast" as the period came to a close more than once this week.

Yes...I'll wait as you reread that last sentence.

I is amazing.

While working together digitally, they are still talking face to face and making decisions as a team. They are creating unique stories that they are excited to share and take in various directions. Many of them have said the magical phrase that made me leave my classroom smiling from ear to ear: "This is fun." What?!?!? Yes, my high school students told me a lesson was fun. Now, that's #whatsup!

While they still have a few more days to complete their stories, I am so impressed with their creativity and excitement during class. I am also very thankful that this awesome curriculum inspired me to do something new with my students that taught the same skill I've taught before but really took it to the next level. I also love that the videos included in the curriculum provide real-life examples for the students of when and where they might use these digital skills. Adding an element of relevance to the lessons helps draw in the students and helps them understand that yes, these skills will help them in the future.

Classroom events this week provided even more evidence that giving students opportunities to create, collaborate, and take ownership of their learning creates the most memorable and meaningful lessons for our students. #whatsup

Here is the assignment I created and Applied Skills curricluum I used to help guide the way:
If-Then Assignment Sheet 
If-Then Story Curriculum (Google Applied Digital Skills)
Student Examples

Here are two quick videos of my classrooms as they worked through the brainstorming phase and then developed their stories. Notice that while they have Chromebooks open, they are still talking face-to-face as they make decisions about their stories. The energy in the room was palpable. I can't wait to read their stories and will update this post with a few examples after they are complete. Update - Examples linked above.