As I finish up our PBL unit on science fiction in sixth grade literature, I am reminded of the power of reflection. This important step has benefitted not only the students, as they recognize the process of learning, but it has benefitted me as the teacher in recognizing the attainment of skill development in the classroom.
Most importantly, did this unit hit the 4C’s: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity? These are the skills we want for our students, so I gauged the effectiveness of the unit through a student reflection.
First, the PBL developed critical thinking as it focused on two topics in our curriculum; the investigation of outer space in Earth Science and the introduction of the genre science fiction in Literature. From my vantage point, it appears the lessons on space were successfully blended with an investigation of the genre of science fiction. In his reflection, Christopher confirmed this: “I learned lots of things about space and things like that. What was important to the (science fiction) production was to research and make sense. To make it science fiction some of it has to be real and scientific. It was fun and research can really help your stories.”
Second, the unit advanced the students’ communication skills as they enhanced their writing skills by creating science fiction stories, as well as their presentation skills when they presented their storyboard ideas to the class. Hunter’s insight was on the importance of time management in the writing process of her graphic novel, “ . . . I also learned that it takes a while to finish a whole novel. I learned to use time management for any upcoming projects. I have learned many lessons from this and will use it in real life.”
Third, choice/voice enlightened some students’ views on the collaboration aspect on this unit. After writing their storyboards, students could choose their own format for producing as well as whether they wanted to work independently or collaboratively with other students. As Isabella pointed out, “. . . I loved how we got to connect our science project with this (project) and I love how we can work with someone if they are going to the same planet.” While this degree of student choice felt like it created chaos (and I definitely felt that I had totally lost control of the classroom), it turned out beautifully and I was so impressed with the final products.
So, I definitely noticed the creativity! As Sam pointed out, ” I think the most important thing about the production was the free rein part. I think it is great that Mrs. Menkus let us produce our project in anyway that we wanted. . . .” While some students wrote science fiction stories, others created iMovies, stop motion videos, graphic novels and audio productions.
In closing, I realize I would not have had these insights without this reflection. Not only did it confirm that the skills of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity were developed, but I also confirmed that this was an authentic experience for the students. As Jackson pointed out, “I liked researching things about space. . . . . . It was also good that I thought about what could happen in the future.” I have enjoyed reading their comments, and it is helping me plan an even better unit next year!