Sunday, September 07, 2008

And what did they write....?

The other day I was so looking forward to the students' reflections on their study guide for the novel The Secret Life of Bees. Their reflections on this unit of work, which was born from a discussion with Al Upton on the study tour I went on in June, surpassed my expectations. The things that I was pleased about: the unit was inclusive, collaborative, the result of a process, and meant that each person could do a small amount, the end result was more than the sum of the parts, and showed students the benefits of attempting something in hopes that it would turn out. Here are a few of the reflections:

From a student who did the plot summary
"When I read the study guide, I felt like I had learnt something about the book and as an author I felt as if I had contributed to other people’s learning. I never thought that I could learn about a novel by doing a study guide and after learning about the novel I felt empowered because assisting someone in his or her learning is what I want to do in life. I loved making the study guide and I hope we do it again."

from a pair of students who were the first to put content on the wiki:
"This study guide has completely evolved form when Cari and I first added our addition, Author information. As we were the first people to complete our entry so at the time there was nothing else to look at. However now there are many interesting things to read. I am quite interested in the civil rights debate and the history of the African-American population particularly during the 1960s. So it was good to learn and be horrified by some of the Jim Crow laws under the topic of themes. The site is now functioning quite well and there are many interesting links to explore. This book has many underlying themes and reference to actual events in history and I have taken it for granted that every step of the way I have fully understood all aspects of the book. I have come to realise through doing this study guide that many people don’t know about civil rights or some of the events mentioned in the book, this study guide would be more beneficial for them."

From a student who doesn't often experience academic success:
"I never really read the book, but I did listen to the tapes and I thought that I did learn a lot more then I ever expected too. Having a study guide made it easier to learn new things and if I was unsure or didn’t no the answer to something it was very good to have something to refer back to if I was unsure. Everything that I learnt was interesting in its own way but nothing really stood out that I found interesting that deserves a mention. I did enjoy using the internet as a way of learning as well, I thought that it was something different and lot more fun then just reading the book or reading from a text book. As young people the internet is a big part of most of our lives and I thought that it was a really smart idea to bring that to the class room."

From a students learning about collaborating:
"Writing and reading the secret life of bees study guide sounded a bit boring and dull at the start, but soon to actually be quite fun. Working with classmates you haven’t worked with before seem pretty scary at first seeing as some of us just like to hang with our friendship group. Working with someone I haven’t worked with before was actually fun. It was also good to actually have a conversation with her; I never thought I would be able to talk to her normally. I didn’t like the thought of thinking of what to write with another person I have never worked with. It was very confronting. After a while it was ok, I enjoyed working with the person after I felt comfortable in my situation. I liked the most reading what everyone else wrote. It was so interesting seeing everyone else’s point of view. I learnt more about the book then I thought! I never actually really got to finish reading the book seeing that I thought it was so boring. But decided that I might read the summary so I know the main points of the book. It helped a lot reading the summaries."

Overall I am very please with how it turned out


  1. I think you and your students have done a wonderful job on this study guide! Thank you for letting me share in this wonderful experience!

  2. Thank you for sharing this particular post. I have followed your blog for a few months now and was excited to share this with an english teacher at my school. Just today, we were having conversations, as part of our monthly staff meeting, about "Where do you see Stelly’s going in the use of technology (for staff & students) " As a math teacher, I want to explore using a blog to draw more out of my students, to give them a chance to take some ownership of their learning in a different, collaborative way. As soon as I saw your recent post, I forwarded it to my colleague and look forward to the conversations and professional growth that will take place because of it. Thank You!

  3. thanks for this great article!

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  5. The most powerful part of this process is the reflections that are evident in the students' thoughts. I have also looked at your wiki and it's a very effective summation of their understandings as well as a resource that may help them in their future learning. I'm going to forward this idea to our English teachers at my school. Even though they are not studying the Secret Life of Bees the concept of creating a resource/study guide is a great one for an English class to do. Congratulations Jo.

  6. wow. very cool insight on this study. thanks.
    cyber monday

  7. Anonymous4:51 pm

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Thx for the great post...You and your student`s did a great job.
    Keep up the good work!!

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  9. Nice Post. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thank you for sharing this.Great job you and your students did.
    Keep up the good work!!!

    Samantha Roberts

  11. you shared a great article! thanks!

  12. yes i am good. i dont think ever properly thanked you for my blog, its really helped my writing and even though i complained every step of the way, i enjoyed using it.
    good luck with the current yr 7s.
    -heather :P

  13. Thank you for some reflections from you students. While I was reading your article, I was wondering what is the book.Collaborative laerning is a great way for students and teachers.The most wonderful thing is that students contrubute other students' learning, help each other,and work together with a fun.
    I want to explore many methods using collaborative learning for my english students.

  14. Very neat the way you are incorporating technology in the classroom. You seem to have great success along with your students.