Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to "Remix" a Simple Assignment

Think of a new song on the radio that you absolutely love.  You start dancing in your car and singing the lyrics every time you hear it. Now, think about a few months later when you can't stand the song anymore because its so overplayed on the radio.  This is often what happens to great songs; they get overplayed. When this happens, music artists often collaborate with other artists to mix up the same song, or create remixes to make the song more interesting and engaging.  This process is called "remixing".  My new favorite "remix" is Lost+ by Coldplay featuring Jay-Z.

Application to Education

We've all written book reviews since we were kids.  It was the same thing, year, after year, after year.  Book reviews helped us to conceptualize the central themes and main ideas of the books we read, but they got boring after awhile. Book reviews became something tedious that we did over and over again.  It seemed like we were just "going through the motions" after awhile.  This is an example of a simple assignment that gets overused to the point where motivation and interest is lost by both students and teachers.

So, one teacher, Mrs. Benedick, decided to "remix" her typical book review assignment.  Instead of having students read a book and simply hand-write, or type-up their book review, she made it come to life!

The Assignment

Students were tasked with writing a historical fiction book review from a book of their choice.  However, they had to create and present an artifact that would represent a section of a newspaper that might have existed in the time period of their book.  Furthermore, they were challenged with creating a clever title for the newspaper that would reflect the setting of the story.  Students were encouraged to be creative by writing an article as it would have been written in an actual newspaper during that time.

Below are two different examples from students who completed this assignment.





What I love about this assignment is the fact that it encompasses both left-brain and right-brain skills.  Students must first activate their left-brain for their analytic, critical thinking, and writing skills in order to write the book review.  Then they must activate their right-brain for their creative, artistic, conceptual, and even emotional skills to create an artifact which is interesting, engaging, and appealing.  Incorporating these right-brain skills makes this assignment come to life, and makes it a more real-world experience. This teacher totally "remixed" this assignment so that her students might develop a deeper understanding of the content and create a more meaningful learning experience.

Tips for "Remixing" Assignments
  • Allow for student voice and choice
  • Invite inquiry and curiosity
  • Encourage students to be creative
  • Facilitate a hands-on learning experience
  • Incorporate empathy into the assignment
  • Provide opportunities for the students to reflect on the content and the process
  • Integrate the arts into the assignment
  • Publish student work so that they have an audience that is extended outside of the class
  • Turn an assignment into an artifact or product, rather than a worksheet.

My Reflection

I truly believe that anyone can exercise a lesson plan, read from a book, and follow a set of directions.  This, to me, is not teaching. Teaching is the "art" of inspiring students to learn, motivating them to succeed, and fostering their strengths and talents.  The fun part of teaching is creating investigations, assignments, and assessments that are both educational and meaningful to students.  Our challenge as teachers in the 21st century, is to figure out how to engage and challenge our students in meaningful ways to help them learn and grow as young people. 

Let's all challenge ourselves to "remix" our assignments to make both teaching and learning more exciting!


You might also like

Rethinking Assessment
Getting "Inuit" with Arts Integration


2 comments:

  1. Hi,
    I personally like your post; you have shared good insights and experiences. It will really help me in great deal.
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    Replies
    1. Hi William,

      Thank you so much for commenting on my blog post. I really appreciate it! I'm also really glad that this post will help you in your education career. Please feel free to check out some of my other blog posts related to "arts integration". I think you might be able to find some of them to be valuable. All the best! - Brad

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