Sometimes, maybe only a few times a year, you'll hit upon something that really, truly WORKS. It is rare that you can come up with an assignment or a project that will keep all the kids engaged, that keeps them busy, and that they actually learn something from. When you find something that fits the bill, you've hit upon gold.
PowerPoint is Gold.
Mrs. Language and I are back in our own classrooms, with the laptop labs, and we're having the kids finish up their severe weather projects. They're writing their research paper in her class, and doing their PowerPoints in my class.
The plan was to spend a few minutes at the beginning of each class teaching them how to log on to the server, find their storage area (each person in our building has a storage area on the server which is fantastic - this means the kids can access their work from any computer in the building), set up a PowerPoint, save it, do transitions, put in graphics, etc. I've learned that the best way to teach this sort of thing is a very brief lesson, and then turn 'em loose to play. They'll actually learn more just messing around and teaching each other. After all, there is nothing more boring on earth than watching someone click around on a computer. I know, I've had to sit through in-services like that.
So on Monday, I do my little ten minute dog and pony show and then I turn them loose. They have their note cards, they have their rubrics, they're ready to go.
And ten minutes later I realize that something truly amazing has happened.
It is silent. The only sound I hear is the clicking of computer keys. Every once in a while a hand will go up and I'll go help my kid and move on to the next kid. They are generating absolutely beautiful work. I see PowerPoints with dazzling backgrounds, wonderful graphics, beautiful transitions.
It is almost unnerving.
By Thursday I am completely bored because they rarely need my help. Instead, they are quietly helping each other. Each class has a handful of kids who really dig this techy stuff (and it's kind of interesting seeing who these kids are as they aren't always the top students) who finished their projects quickly and now are working the room helping their classmates.
This isn't to say that all is perfect - they're still acting like idiots in the hallways and at lunch, but at least in my room (and in Mrs. Language's as well, she reports), they are quiet. And they are working. And I am ecstatic.