A Teacher's Role in SOLE

In my experience, a teacher’s biggest concern about SOLE is that they don’t understand their part of it. And it’s true: SOLEs are very student-driven, and teachers often take a step back. Several times when teachers watched me facilitate a SOLE in my own classroom, they asked: “But...what do you do?” In my classroom, where the expectations for SOLE were laid out and students were very used to the process, there were long stretches of time where I was walking around and appeared to do nothing. This is intentional! In reality, I was taking a step back--monitoring, but letting students succeed without me. However, there’s a huge difference between “taking a step back” and “leaving the school and driving home.” A SOLE can’t function without a teacher-- the teacher might just be in a little different role than normal. Students are still students and need guidance. That begins with your big question. Your big question can be generated by students, but obviously, they are vetted by teacher

Students and Reputable Sources Blog

Probably the hardest part of students doing research (and therefore, students doing SOLEs) is having them find reliable research. Kids think they’re great at researching because they’re used to being online, but often they just go with the first source to pop up. Many kids list Google as a source, and some don’t even click on a link, just using the information that pops up when they type in a question. They get frustrated when their search doesn’t yield results, and state there’s no information to be found, rather than changing or specifying the words they’re using to search. If this all sounds familiar, don’t worry-- there are many, many possible solutions and I’ve tried almost all of them. I actually usually did a SOLE for this at the beginning of the year-- my question was always just “How do you know a source is reliable?” This obviously works better with older students who have some research experience, but it might be a good jumping off point either way! If you feel your stude

SOLE: The Importance of Reflection

If you read these blogs regularly, you probably know by now that not every SOLE goes perfectly. To some, they assume that means that SOLE is ineffective, and they are no longer interested in using it. However, I’d argue that nothing goes right 100% of the time, and honestly if something does it’s probably not truly challenging your students. In addition, I’d challenge them to think about anything in life that goes well 100% of the time. I’ve made my mom’s recipe for brownies probably a hundred times in my lifetime, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting to add flour once. Failure is a part of life-- it’s what we do with failure that matters. But what do we do with failure? Typically, we don’t sit around and bemoan it (at least not for very long). The key thing to do is figure out what happened, and the easiest way to do that is a simple reflection. Walking through your steps, wondering what happened, trying to pin down exactly what went wrong. As teachers, it’s usually pretty easy

When Good SOLEs Go Bad

I did a lot of SOLEs in my classroom. The overwhelming majority were very successful--students were engaged, their presentations were interesting, and I walked away feeling great about our progress. That was the majority, meaning that there were some SOLEs (albeit a very small minority) that I walked away from feeling stressed and defeated-- students didn’t enjoy it or were off task the whole time, or the presentations were far below expectations. It happens. It happened to me more than once. However, there are steps you can take to minimize this, and I encourage you to not let one bad SOLE session ruin a great tool for you. I did find that the easiest way to avoid having a bad SOLE session was to have a great question, ideally one that the students had a hand in creating. By completing this step, students have an automatic buy-in into the process, and the question is more likely to be directly aligned with their interests. This helps raise the engagement level and typically the

Why Make Students Present?

I had very good luck with students most years-- I would develop a bond with them quickly, and they rarely were outright defiant or indignant over doing a task. However, there were a few things that, no matter how well I got along with the kids or how much they liked my class, led to an argument (at least in the beginning of the year--but more on that later). One of those was presentations. I don’t think any assigned task created as much instant dread as presentations, and so they were often the hardest part of a SOLE. If students are unused to presenting, they are nervous and often extremely resistant. Even if they’re not, most are uncomfortable with presenting something they have created in one hour. They push back, and often the initial presentations are less than stellar. Some teachers, when they’re new to SOLE, might question why we do this--when students are so excited to do the research and collaboration, why force them to present if they’re uncomfortable? My fir

Why SOLE has students collaborate

Many students don’t like working in groups. Honestly, one of the most consistent questions I received when running a SOLE was “Miss, can I do this by myself?”. I can’t say I blame them-- some personalities just prefer doing work alone. Many people (students and adults alike) dream of a quiet office where they can sit and work in peace. However, something that becomes very apparent when looking at career paths is that almost no one works in isolation anymore. Gone are the days of sitting at a desk doing work alone-- even if that’s what you do most days, you’re still going to be on a team at some point. More often than not, you’ll be expected to collaborate with others almost daily, and it’s not the easiest skill to develop, especially if it doesn’t come naturally to you. Collaboration is more than just throwing a few people onto the same project, and hoping they don’t murder each other; it takes practice. But knowing how to collaborate isn’t just a perk for employers anymore--it’

STARTSOLE App: Why I never used an educational app (until I did)

 It’s not the most flattering thing about myself, but I’ll admit it--I’m lazy. Or, as I prefer to say it, I’m picky about where I focus my energy. I’ll work incredibly hard on something that warrants it, but I’ll also avoid doing anything to make that job any harder at all cost. Which is probably why, despite being a digital native, I never used an education app in my classroom. I know I’m the prime demographic for them--I’m a millennial, I’m completely addicted to technology, and I’m used to using it every single day (including at work)-- but every time I tried one it either felt too “kiddish” for my high schoolers, or was way more work than I was willing to do. Teaching is already more than a full-time job, and I wasn’t going to take away the energy that I was devoting to my students in order to focus on getting an app to function for my classroom. A lot of my friends and colleagues used them--I heard endless recommendations for different trendy apps through the years-- but with o