Wednesday, January 27, 2016

When PowerPoints are banned

This past week, my students have been learning about specific groups of immigrants who have come to Canada for various reasons over the past 100 years. I set the reading up as a jigsaw activity, giving each student in a group of four a different article to read. After they had read their articles, they got together with the people from the other groups who had read the same article, and discussed what they had learned.

Then the fun began.

I asked each group to come up with a way of communicating their pooled information to the rest of the class, to the people who had not read about that particular group of immigrants. The catch? They were not allowed to create anything resembling a PowerPoint presentation (no Google Slides, no NearPod, no slideshow of any kind) As they started discussing what they would do instead, I heard one group laughing at their shared idea of doing an obstacle course - they were dismissing the idea out of hand.

I casually mentioned to the class at large that any idea would be worth exploring, and that they shouldn't hesitate to think outside of the box for this activity. The group discussing the obstacle course positively beamed when they realize their idea didn't have to just be a joke!

Here's what they set up to teach the rest of the class about Vietnamien refugees between 1975 and 1995.

Getting ready for the rest of the class to arrive

Setting up

Students had to relay race on mats to represent the boats that Vietnamien refugees would have travelled on to get to Canada.

Building a house with substandard materials to represent camps that refugees often stay in.

Vietnamien refugees were ill-prepared for the winters in Canada, and had to wear whatever they were given.

The beanbag toss represented the fact that it was easier for younger refugees to find work (the students in each group lined up from youngest to oldest, with the youngest students closer to the hoops)

Putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. Each group had a different puzzle to make, to underline the fact that many elements go into determining whether or not an immigrant will be successful in Canada (languages spoken, former education, age and luck were all pieces of the puzzle discussed by the group who created the presentation)

I love it when I give my students the freedom to think and create outside of what they normally view as "school" activities. This group in particular was very thoughtful in their creation of an activity that would simulate in some small part the challenges that immigrants and refugees face. PowerPoints have their place, but so does creative thought. And, in my opinion, even more so.