Fostering Classroom Norms: Using Wikispaces

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Grade Level: 4th-8th Grade
Subject: CORE subjects and Electives
Sub-Subject: Character Education/Earth Charter Principles
Length/Duration: 2 class periods (1 hour each)/On-going
Technologies Used: Wikispaces
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Background[edit]

How do we get students to take ownership of their learning? How can we make learning meaningful for students? These are just a few of the questions that this lesson will address. In my classroom, I want students to collaborate using authentic discussion, have pride in their work, and be supportive of their peers. In addition to these objectives, I strive to teach students using the Principles of The Earth Charter. Specifically, the principle that this lesson will address is Principle I.3: Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful. In order to instill these principles in my students, I have found that there are many environmental conditions that need to be established in the classroom for these objectives to take place. In a case study of a 5th grade classroom, it was found that several of these environmental conditions surfaced when authentic discussion took place (Hadijioannou, 2007). Those conditions included the following:

  1. Physical environment-areas in the classroom for students to work comfortably
  2. Curricular demands-using backwards design and inquiry methods
  3. Teacher beliefs-openness to a variety of interpretations from students
  4. Student beliefs-positive attitude toward learning
  5. Relationships between members-taking the time for students to get to know one another
  6. Classroom procedure-rule of respect
  7. Norms of class participation-opinions need to be supported

These conditions should should serve as a guide for facilitating a rigorous learning environment. Yet, in order for students to begin taking on responsibility for this learning environment, they need to be empowered as stakeholders in the classroom. For students to take on the ownership of their learning, it is imperative to involve them in the process of skillful discourse in order to establish their own standards and norms in the learning environment (Freire, 1970). According to Freire's theory (1970), students can only overcome their status as an oppressed citizen if actively engage in the process of decision-making and reflect on those decisions.

Therefore, this lesson aims directly at empowering students to make decisions about the learning environment of which they are a part. One way to actively engage students in the process of decision-making is to hold authentic discussions about group norms of behavior in the classroom. In a recent newsletter from The Smart & Good Schools Initiative (2009), four keys for increasing students' performance character were defined. The 4 Keys include:

  1. A Community That Supports & Challenges: building group norms
  2. Self-Study: assessing and monitoring for improvement opportunities
  3. Other-Study: investigating positive and negative examples
  4. Public Performance/Presentation: sharing products and progress

These 4 Keys are another way for teachers to create the environmental conditions necessary for critical thinking and ownership of learning. While, it may not be necessary to focus on all four keys at the same time, a teacher should be mindful of how each of the keys can work together in fostering authentic discussion and classroom norms.

For the purpose of this lesson, we will focus on Key #1: A Community That Supports & Challenges and Key #2: Public Performance/Presentation. Students will be required to utilize the Classroom Norms Guidelines and publish their page to class Wikispaces. The lesson below describes how you might go about using Wikispaces to have students have an authentic discussion and utilize technology as a publication tool in order to build classroom norms. The underlying objective is to carry these classroom norms over to on-line rules of etiquette. Rules of on-line etiquette will be covered in a preceding lesson. However, the same student pages will host those later additions. Wikispaces are meant to be continuously updated and evolve as students take on new learning opportunities.

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Lesson Plan[edit]

Engage: Create a T-chart with the class to define RESPECT. What does it look like? What does it sound like?

Explore: Have students work in triads or small groups to build a classroom norms page to post to the classroom Wikispaces. Students should utilize the Classroom Norms Guide.

Explain: Students present their Wikispace page to the class.

Evaluate: Provide students feedback using a rubric. You may want to refer to this sample rubric.

Extend: Build on classroom norms by discussing how this looks in an on-line format. Ask students what were some of the strategies they found helpful when working with their partner on building the classroom norms page? What were some of the challenges? How did they overcome these challenges?

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References[edit]

Davidson, Matt; Fisher, C.; Likona, T. (Winter 2009). The 4 Keys: Maximizing the Power of Any Character Education Practice. Excellence and Ethics, 1-3.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed (pp. 57-65). New York: Herder & Herder.

Hadjioannou, X. (2007). Bringing the background to the foreground: What do classroom environments that support authentic discussions look like? American Educational Research Journal, 44(2), 370-399.


See Also[edit]

Wikispaces

RubiStar

The Earth Charter Preamble

Educational Technologies

Educational Technologies Lesson Plans