Human needs & community
How do we make meaning?
How do we make work meaningful? It may seem like a straightforward question that might have a plain answer to everyone... except educators. Striving to make content that is standardized suddenly resonate with students and create meaning is a complex goal that could even confound veteran teachers. For students to derive meaning from school and its accompanying work, it is necessary for educators to meet the students as they are and to utilize what they bring into the classroom. A student is filled with rich experiences and culture that can have complex points of engagement that teachers can tap into when they invest the time to do so. During this lesson study cycle, my team focused on how we as novice educators can increase engagement amongst students studying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and how we can guide them to construe meaning from their findings.
Students will make personally relevant connections to their work and lives through collaborative experiences that center their voice and choice to tend to their sense of empowerment.
Evidence of student thinking
The day of the lesson study arrived and my cohort members and I were eager to see how the implementation of our plan would go. When students came into the classroom, they saw on the projected board the following prompt: "What are human needs? Name some examples." Students were then introduced to the vocabulary for the lesson which included hierarchy, esteem, physiology, and self-actualization. In small groups, students had large posters with sectioned pyramids on one side and a prompt on the other.
Then, in small groups, students worked together to place the categories of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs on the provided poster papers. Once students determined the order, they worked together to place the needs from the article into each section of the pyramid. Ideally, students will make educated guesses and debate with each other to decide where each need goes on the poster. Following that activity, students "popcorn read" an article and annotated as they learned more about the Hierarchy of Needs.
Once completed, the class moved on to explore different prompts regarding the article. Students had to reference their annotations and notes in order to make informed opinions on what they read. They completed a World Cafe and left their groups' opinions on their posters and responded to others. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time for students to have a class-wide discussion on the days lesson but the conversation would continue in the ensuing days.
What we hoped to learn...
As a group of novice teachers, we had hoped we could find a meaningful activity that fit into the unit of Community in the host classroom. We wanted to know what would resonate with students and hold the ever wavering attention of teenagers. We wanted to challenge ourselves to make a culturally responsive activity that students would engage with and what that would entail.
Our Aha's from research...
We learned that in order to frame work as meaningful for students, an educator must make it applicable to their students' lives. When a learner can pull from their own experiences and draw upon what is of most value to them, then they will truly engage. It is only natural to talk about what matters to you, even as an adult. Students in elementary or secondary schools are no different. To engage s to wonder wholly about students and be culturally responsive.
Implications for future practice...
While attending school I had never felt as if though my cultural heritage or background was imperative or of particular use in my work. However, as an educator, I am seeing how it is vital to not only build relationships with students but also in making work meaningful. I also found strategies in our lesson study that I hadn't used since 5th grade such as "popcorn reading" to be incredibly effective.
For this particular lesson study cycle, I felt very lucky to be placed in the group that I had. My cohort and I worked well together and focused on what we wanted to learn most. Our focus of meaningful work and community was a fascinating subject for this cycle that we all intend to pursue a deeper understanding of as we advance in our careers. We all had chemistry with one another and brought different strengths to the table while being able to also build off of each other's individual ideas.
During this process, I learned the breadth of engagement that students can experience can go much deeper than anticipated when teachers are culturally responsive. Students will rise to the occasion when you put in the effort to meet them where they are. I believe that the research I conducted and the lesson study cycle provided me with the inspiration to guide students to passionately make meaning out of their education.