Why I use student-driven ideas in my curriculum

A high school teacher shares an innovative way to keep students on task

As in all project-based learning, students still needed guidance with specific benchmarks to get immersed in their idea. They could be creative, collaborate, and think critically, but had to work on their focus and time management to keep engaged in the process. It was time to shut the door and lock all of their daily stresses and distractions outside!

The importance of flowcharts

Once they had their idea, students began with a flowchart. Flowcharting—similar to mind mapping, graphic organizing, and brainstorming—offers several benefits to student learning. Usually identified with business projects and programming tasks, flowcharting allows students to organize their thoughts in a graphical display while applying a logical sequence. This practice can be applied to any discipline where students are asked to make a decision, solve a problem, or identify the cause and effect of a particular situation. Creating a flowchart helped my students follow a defined path that made their code come to life. It was the catalyst to get them started.

Project details for students:

  1. Students collaborate on their idea and document it on a shared Google Doc to show project
  2. Students create and submit a flowchart using Lucidcharts. (If some students were more
    comfortable drawing their charts on paper, I accepted that format as well.)
  3. Students design a rubric based on their perception as to how they think the escape room should be evaluated.
  4. Students code their game. (Note: In other subject areas, students replace the coding with Google Sites to create a webpage and Google Forms to provide an avenue for user
    input when unlocking codes. There can also be physical challenges using objects in their
    classroom with hidden clues to unlock codes.)
  5. Students reflect on the experience through a student-created screencast or Flipgrid to discuss
    project and highlight challenges.

Project details for teachers:

  1. Create project criteria, collaborate on a student-designed rubric, and add video examples of escape rooms within Google Classroom.
  2. Monitor, assist, and encourage students to try different clues, puzzles/challenges while
    troubleshooting code.
  3. Assign outside faculty to judge final games based on class rubric.
  4. Assess student work offering feedback based on class rubric and group participation.

The outcome

Using student-driven ideas in my curriculum proved to be beneficial to learning. Students were engaged, focused, excited about coding, and—for a short period of time—free from the stresses and distractions around them.

This experience taught me to worry less about trying to create the perfect lesson on my own and to simply watch what my students were doing to distract themselves to generate interest. By stealing their means to escape from stress and distractions and adding student-driven ideas to my lessons, I happily brought them into my room and into the world.

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