When the students enter the classroom today, they find the Smartboard screen filled with "As Seen on TV Products". Their excitement is audible as they exclaim, "Oh! I want that!" and "I saw that on TV!!"
I tell them that these are products that my children have on their Christmas lists and I am trying to find out if they're worth the money or not because sometimes things you buy on TV break or don't do what they advertise. I hand out the quick write to get their brains flowing with ideas of times when they've received something that hasn't worked out the way they thought it would.
A Note Here: Many of my students have never received nor ordered anything As Seen On TV so I've framed the quick write for any product so when they say, "I've never gotten anything from the TV", it's OK to write about any product that hasn't met their expectation.
After the students finish their quick write (usually 5 minutes or so), I give them time to share with their groups and then choose a few to share with the class. I ask them what would have helped them make a decision whether or not to buy their item. They said, "If I knew someone who had it" and "Playing with it first." I asked the students if they have ever bought or not bought something based on what another person says. Some kiddos say yes, especially video games.
I tell them that today they are going to help me make a decision to buy one of these things for my kids. Using our ancient lap tops, each kiddo gets a computer and will search the customer reviews at Amazon.com to determine whether or not I should buy any of these items.
I give each student a packet which includes pages for things to look for for each product. At this point I don't give them instructions for navigating Amazon because I want to keep it as real life as possible. As a grown up, when I come across a new website, there are no instructions for how to navigate it. This is a problem based approach. The problem is you need to find reviews of the products and decide whether or not I should buy any of them.
I do, however, go through the assignment's directions and expectations so that no one is surprised or confused and then we get to work.
I went back and forth with having the students analyze one product, a couple of products, all of the products or just what they could get done in a class period, but when we were in the middle of this, they were so engaged that I asked them what they wanted to do. They overwhelmingly decided that they wanted to research all of the products so... this gets continued tomorrow!!
I collect the packets and some students ask if they can do some research at home, which of course I allow and I do a final check in to see how many products they had gotten done today. Most had two or three done so I figured one more day would suffice.
This reflection makes me laugh a little when I look at all the tags!! I find that all of these fit the subject though. I have found in my many years of teaching that the more ownersip I give to my students the higher they perform. I remember when I was starting out, I controlled a lot of what went on in my class because I was afraid of losing control. Experience and wisdom has taught me that I get more control by building a relationship of trust and respect with my students. In this project, like in many others, I let the students control where it goes. What difference does it make to me if I spend one or two days on the reviews? If it matters to them it matters to me and this is why I let them decide our direction.
In fact, there are many times when I'm unsure in the planning stage, I ask the kids where to go or what they'd rather or how long they need. They let me know what interests them and what their needs are. Teaching my students to be advocates for themselves will get them much further in life than if I stay on course with my lesson plan book!!