In a middle school english class, the teacher asked the students: “how might we increase the level of fun and improve retention while studying for vocabulary quizzes?” Students were challenged to come up with a tool or game to aid in the process of learning vocabulary. They began the process by interviewing one another to find out how their classmates learn best and to hear examples of effective learning experiences the students have had in the past. They used what they learned from their interviews to fuel ideas for a brainstorm of fun and effective ways to learn vocabulary. Finally, each group created a prototype of their study tool for other students to test. Students tested the ideas while studying for the quiz at the end of the week and gave feedback on how well they worked.
Designing for the Gods
For their unit on Greek Gods, middle school students read stories about each of the gods. To take it a step further, they were then assigned a god and as a group they were challenged to design something (such as a space or an object) for that god. They used what they knew about their god to infer what they would like and/or need. The groups brainstormed possible designs, prototyped those ideas, and then presented them to the class for feedback. Classmates provided feedback based on their own knowledge of the gods. Finally, groups used figurative language to create an advertisement for their design that would appeal to the gods and convince them that they would like the product that the students created for them.
Students in a middle school english class read well-known universal stories from the Bible such as David and Goliath or Cain and Abel. They also read and analyzed a number of poems. After completing the readings they picked a theme, such as conflict or love, and interviewed parents and classmates about why these themes are compelling. Finally, they wrote a poem they felt would have a universal meaning stemming from a compelling theme. They presented their poems to their classmates and parents for feedback and made revisions based on the comments they received.
For Students, By Students
Middle school students were tasked with the challenge of designing a learning experience for younger students. The learning experience could be a game, a lesson, or whatever they came up with. They interviewed the younger students about how they learn best. Using the information from their interviews, they created learning experiences and tested them with the younger students.
In a writing class the teacher used “writing prototypes” to give students practice with editing and writing for a specific audience. Students were challenged to write for another student in the class. In order to accomplish this task, they created multiple iterations of their writing pieces; and in doing so, honed their empathy skills by writing for another person. The teacher found that students who rarely felt proud of their writing expressed a great deal of pride about their pieces. Students engaged on a different level as they tried to create something that they thought their partner would like.
Each One, Teach One
A 9th grade english class used the design process to learn and teach about complex poetry terms. Students split into groups and chose a poetry term. Each group was tasked to create a learning experience to teach the others about the term they chose. Students started the process by interviewing one another to find out what makes an effective learning experience. Based on what they learned from their interviews, each group created a game, a presentation, a video, or a Glogster to effectively teach others about their term. They then prototyped their learning experiences for the class and, based on the feedback they received, created a final presentation that was recorded and shared with the other 9th grade poetry classes.