Giving Up Control In Your Classroom

(Day 6 and 7)

I did something very different this week.  Besides letting my students CHOOSE what LA units of study they wished to complete this year, I let them plan the unit as well.

They decided they wanted to tackle Mythology as their core unit this year (up until now we’ve been doing to “get to know you” projects).  So on the very first day we were supposed to start the unit I stood before them with….nothing.  And I did it on purpose!

I gave up the planning of the unit to my class of 20 Grade 8 students with this question, “So what is it you want to learn in this unit anyways?”

They had great ideas but they were sort of all over the place.  So we decided to focus things around two central questions:

1.  What is the difference between a myth and a legend?

“Whoa, how do you answer that?” I asked them.  They decided on their own that the best way to do this would probably be to seek out what some “experts” have said (research) and then do some reading and come up with lists of what goes into a myth and what goes into a legend (reading and gathering data).  Afterwards they would compare lists they made in small groups and finally as a large class to come up with a criteria list for each (critical thinking – sweet!)

2.  What makes up a “good” myth?

Well they very quickly decided that this goes hand in hand with the first question and that while coming up with their criteria lists they could also amend it to answer this question.  “Great!” I said.  “And then what?  What should we do with all of this stuff you are about to learn?”

“We could write our own!” they quickly said with some pretty big excitement.

“Awesome!  And then what should we do with them?” I challenged further.

They seem confused by this.

“What do you mean, ‘do with them’?” they wanted to know.

“Well it seems a shame to go to all this great work and then not share your stories.  Why don’t we publish them?”

“Where?  How would we do that?  You mean make stories and then photocopy them?”

“Well,” I said.  “That’s one possibility.  But I was thinking bigger.  I was thinking maybe an audience potential of say….6 billion.  Let’s get them on-line…..”

So what did this look like in the end?  Well here’s their plan for the unit.

It begins with reading lots of myths and legends to come up with their criteria lists.  Then they want to do a research project on some crucial element of mythology (Gods, heroes, creatures, etc.) for a bit of deeper investigation before they finally conclude by writing their own mythology stories and adding illustrations.

I don’t think I could have planned it any better myself.  And the best part about this?  They own it now.  It’s their unit.

I can’t wait to see what they come up with!


About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
This entry was posted in 180 Days of Teaching, Critical Thinking. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Giving Up Control In Your Classroom

  1. I love what you did here! And you’re preparing your students to be independent thinkers later. Just listen to how excited this high school senior got about the project she thought up!

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