For my final make, I designed a comic book project that I plan to use at the end of this school year with my sixth grade math students. I chunked the project into four parts (chapter proposal, rough draft, peer feedback/revisions, and final draft) in order to guide students’ work and to provide an outline for the tasks in which students will be engaged during class time. The main premise of the project is that students will be placed into pairs in order to create a chapter of a comic book that will relate to a math topic that was learned during the school year. At the completion of the project, all final chapter drafts will be joined together, forming a class comic book that will be shared with next year’s incoming sixth grade students.
My Connected Learning Process
Before I begin to describe how this project relates to the connected learning principles that we have explored in class this year, I wanted to briefly discuss the implications of pose/wobble/flow and how I was a connected learner throughout the task of creating this final make. First, I posed an end goal of wanting to create a project that would allow for my students to engage in connected learning and that would promote equity in my classroom, as this was the focus of my class inquiry question (“How can we promote equity in the mathematics classroom when students come to us at all different levels?”). I turned to some of my networks via online resources and connections within my school building in order to gather and then refine my ideas.
I was originally inspired by Jason and the Matha Lisa (which I later found out is being sold on Amazon!), as I felt that having students all contribute a chapter to a book exemplified the connected learning principle of shared purpose (see #5 in my last “Find Five Friday” here.) However, I wobbled with the idea of how best to adapt this project to my own classroom environment. I knew that I wanted to make this a culminating project for my students, allowing them to reflect on all of the topics that they learned in math this year–but aside from that felt a little stuck. I sat down with a grade-level department colleague and laid out my thoughts. While she liked the idea of having students create a book, she reminded me that gaining access to a computer lab during one of the last weeks of school would be quite difficult to do. She then suggested having students create comics, as students would not need to word process. I immediately thought about how we learned this semester that technology, though oftentimes useful, is not a necessary component of connected learning. From there, I was reminded of Nick Kremer’s (2014) testimony in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom about how well the use of comics can align to the connected learning principles. Thus, the idea of having students create chapters in order to build a comic book story was conceived through input from several different connections–all of the pieces were coming together!
Another one of my inquiry questions from Week 6 was, “What does assessment look like in a connected learning classroom? How can we hold students accountable for their learning in such a setting?” I knew that by creating a project for my students, I would have the opportunity to tackle this question. I turned to RubiStar as a resource as I wobbled with how best to assess my students. RubiStar has templates of rubrics for all subject areas available. I felt that the categories available for math suited my project nicely. I was able to select a handful that I felt were best aligned to the goals of the project and the skills in which it would have students engage. Two of my selected categories are related specifically to the academic content, one is related to collaboration, one is related to task completion, and one is related to how neatly the final product is organized. The RubiStar template contained descriptions for each of the point domains regarding each category. While I adjusted a few words here and there to specifically suit my project, the main ideas that appeared in the template remain. Thus, through my tinkering, I found RubiStar to be a useful tool in my exploration of how to assess work relating to connected learning.
My small moves of designing this project and relating it to the connected learning principles (and thus to the promotion of equity in my classroom) are where I feel that I have achieved a sense of flow (see below).
Check out my project here: Math 6 End of Year Comic Book Project
I have included comments on the side inside of the document listing my rationale for certain elements of the project as well as more detailed explanations of various project components–please make sure to click on the comment bubbles on the right hand side of the document in order to read them!
Although students are working in pairs, I am planning on having each individual student turn in one of the above attached documents in order to hold them individually accountable for their participation and contributions.
My Make and the Principles of Connected Learning
Interest-driven. This project is interest-driven because it provides students with the freedom to choose their own setting, characters, and story-line for their chapter. This allows students to flex their creativity muscles and to design a story that has personal meaning to them. This will in turn make the work more engaging, allowing students to bring their ideas to life through their writing and illustrations. Students will ultimately be proud of their work because they will have ownership over it.
Peer-supported. This project is peer-supported on several levels. First, students will be working in pairs in order to create their chapters. This will require students to communicate, collaborate, and compromise in order to reach agreements as to how they would like their story to flow and what they would like to include within it. Within their pairings, students will need to work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses, determining how best to divvy up tasks and responsibilities. These types of collaboration skills are the same that are required across careers and thus will empower students both inside and outside of a classroom-based environment. In support, Kremer (2014) writes, “…when teams of students are employed in the act of creating a comic together, a range of twenty-first-century skills, such as leadership, collaboration, conscientiousness, and adaptability, are cultivated in a messy, play-like environment that all-too-accurately mirrors the real world… (p. 52). I think that my project takes this idea even one step further. By allowing students to engage in these types of collaborative efforts, I will not simply be preparing my students for their future. Rather, I will be showing them that their contributions are valued in the present—a notion that I highlighted in one of my recent blog postings and that I feel is key to achieving equity.
This project is also peer-supported by means of peer feedback. By incorporating a peer feedback component into the project, students are able to reflect on each other’s work as well as revise their own work based off of the ideas of their classmates. This further conveys to students that their contributions are valued. It also drives home the notion that each class of students has total ownership over their completed product.
Academically oriented. This project is academically oriented, striking what I consider to be a perfect balance between academic content and connected learning practices. Through the creative and collaborative (yet personalized) process of creating a comic book chapter, students demonstrate their mathematics content knowledge. Students are required to include three worked out examples in their comic as well as explanations of key terms. Students will have to tinker in order to determine how best to integrate these concepts within their chosen story-line.
Production-centered. This project is production centered, as students are creating individual chapters that will ultimately be joined to form a class comic book. By the end of this project, students will have completed a tangible piece of work that will be shared with others.
Openly networked. The tasks in this project are openly networked in several ways. First, as students work on their chapters, they will need to confer with peer groups outside of their own in order to both a) gather feedback and b) ensure that the story flows from chapter to chapter. In addition, students will be sharing their final product with future sixth graders. This makes their work meaningful and purposeful. My hope is that the incoming sixth graders will page through these comic books and become more inspired to learn and engage with the mathematics as a result of seeing the amount of effort that these students will put into creatively explaining each topic.
Driving a shared purpose. Shared purpose is evident through this project by how students’ chapters will be combined in order to form a whole comic book which will be shared with incoming sixth grade students. Each student has an essential role in the completion of the project, contributing to the final product. The final product will thus shine with the voices of all of my students, providing everyone with a chance to be seen/heard.
Conclusions: My Make and Equity
This project supports equity because it allows students to engage in the principles of connected learning. As I have discovered through my work this semester, connected learning forms a pathway for promoting equity among students. In specific, the comic book project will empower my students by allowing each of their voices to be heard and each of their ideas to be valued. By being interest driven, students will be able to make a comic including a setting and characters that they are passionate about—they will be free to tell their story, claiming ownership for their work. In addition, this project will allow student strengths to shine that may normally not receive attention in math class (e.g. drawing, writing, etc.). By being peer-supported, this project will encourage students to value the ideas and feedback that they receive from each other, further empowering them to view their contributions as meaningful. In addition, the 21st century skills in which students will engage as they complete this project (e.g. time management, communication, collaboration, planning, providing and receiving feedback, etc.) will be applicable far past classroom walls alone. Accordingly, Kremer (2014) writes, “Equity in the classroom can be realized further by providing structured opportunities for peer collaboration, and comics inherently present unique opportunities for social connection that mirror the exchanges students actively seek in their everyday lives” (p. 52). By being production centered and openly networked, students will have the opportunity to take pride in a completed, collaborative piece of work which will live on well past the end of the school year. Finally, the shared purpose that my students will enact in creating the final comic book will bring them together as a community of learners for an authentic purpose.
Thus, it is my hope that through engaging in this project, my students will make small moves towards existing in and consequently leaving my classroom feeling confident and empowered, ready to tackle oncoming challenges that may come their way. My hope is that they will realize that their contributions matter—that THEY matter and that they can make a difference!
ALTEC at University of Kansas (2008). RubiStar. Retrieved from http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php
EL Education (2017). Jason and the Matha Lisa. Retrieved from http://modelsofexcellence.eleducation.org/projects/jason-and-matha-lisa
Garcia, A., & O’Donnell-Allen, C. (2015). What it means to pose, wobble, and flow. In Pose, wobble, flow: A culturally proactive approach to literacy instruction (pp. 1-15). Retrieved from https://via.hypothes.is/http://marginalsyllab.us/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/PWFlow-Intro.pdf
Kremer, N. (2014). Writing with pictures: Comics and connected learning. In A. Garcia (Ed.), Teaching in the connected learning classroom (pp. 49-52). Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub. Retrieved from http://dmlhub.net/wp-content/uploads/files/teaching-in-the-CL-classroom.pdf
Pennsylvania Department of Education. (2014). Mathematics assessment anchors and eligible content aligned to the Pennsylvania Core Standards: Grade 6. Retrieved from http://www.education.pa.gov/Documents/K-12/Assessment%20and%20Accountability/PSSA/Assessment%20Anchors/2014%20Grade%206%20Math%20AA.pdf