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