Monday, May 16, 2016


Learn about what our 11th grade English Language Arts students are doing to finish the year.  Special thanks to Kyle Behrsing for composing this guest post:

As Hazen moves toward implementing Proficiency Based Learning and personalized learning plans for all students, teachers are finding ways to engage students in materials and projects that stir their interest. Kelly Robinson, Matt Dickstein, and I designed our end-of-the-year project for our Junior English Language Arts classes with those goals in mind.

We took an older project called “I-Search” and adapted it to reflect modern technology use and themes from our classes. We also aligned the expectations of the project to the proficiencies for our classes, while creating scales for the students to assess their learning. With the technical work out of the way, we were able to present our students an extensive research project that they could gear around their personal interests.

Students formulated questions about a topic of their interest that related to a book’s theme or content we had analyzed over the course of the year. They started a research process for which they generated questions as a starting point to their discovery. Students designed blogs where they are documenting their learning and process in a narrative style while exploring a variety of types of sources to find as much information about their topic as they can. In the upcoming weeks, they will construct a final paper with their blog narratives and will present their findings to a panel of adults. Some of these adults, including other teachers, administrators, and Hazen Board members, have already spent time visiting the students’ blogs, asking questions and providing feedback on their process, their findings, and their writing. It is an ambitious project, and the involvement of a public audience beyond the classroom reinforces our commitment to quality as recognized in the wider world beyond school, while the openness to student choice ensures relevance.

Our students have found this task to be daunting but rewarding, difficult yet engaging and it is helping them to develop, among other things, the pride that comes from perseverance. It is challenging to be held accountable to for meeting proficiencies and to sink into and maintain focus on a sustained research project. We think our students’ discovery of a new subject area and their reflections on their research process will give them confidence and help to make them college and career ready.