Dr. Michelle Reinhard EdD
The best way to identify a Grecian Urn is to look at a task and ask this question: Does it consume far more of a student’s time than is reasonable in relation to its academic impact? If students spend more time on work that will not move them forward in the skill you think you are teaching, then it may be a Grecian Urn. And it may need to go.”- “Is Your Lesson Plan a Grecian Urn?”
We were reading a great piece posted in Cult of Pedagogy entitled “Is Your Lesson Plan a Grecian Urn?” by Jennifer Gonzalez. It’s a good read and a great place to start our discussion on the use of “glitter.” In the Interactivated Classroom, “glitter” means anything that’s shiny, meant to get short term attention, takes up time, gets everywhere, and eventually ends up in the trash. “But how does that apply to Interactivated Learning?” you may ask (or you would if you thought of it). Remember the Interactivated Class Three-One-Zero model? The three parts to every class period are 1) an introduction to the topic, 2) interaction through the Interactivated Presentation, and 3) in-depth exploration. Since we’ve already covered the first two parts in other papers, this paper will cover in-depth exploration.
Glitter, So Much Glitter!
Do you assign posters, dioramas or year-end research papers and presentations? That’s all glitter. The Interactivated Class follows the Three-One-Zero (three parts to each class, one topic per class, zero homework). Creating an end of the course or even end of quarter projects or papers ignores two of the three parts of the model.
First, one topic per class. The in-depth exploration MUST focus on the one topic that you want the students to take away from that day. It doesn’t matter if you’re covering Sparta, Skywalker or Skyscrapers, the day it’s discussed is the day it’s explored. Giving students a list of topics at the end of the course to write a paper on won’t increase their knowledge about that one topic because students will always pick the topic that is easiest for them. It will, however, increase their lack of understanding of the difficult topics they avoided.
Second, zero homework. Unless you take instruction days to let students do their projects in class, you’ll end up assigning homework to complete a research paper or project. Don’t! Homework is UNGUIDED learning and is of dubious value at best. You’ll spend hours grading, plagiarism is rampant, and more than a few won’t even bother to attempt to do it. But more importantly, it’s you, the teacher that is the keystone to learning and if you’re not part of it, it’s not happening. By doing small, daily, in-class projects, you are right there to explain and reinforce the one topic that you want students to take away from the class. There’s no escaping the in-class assignment, no avoiding a topic they don’t understand, no dogs to eat homework, no internet to be down, and no shortage of help from you or classmates.
The Spaghetti Approach
What does work? That’s the fun part about being Interactivated, you get to try everything! Have fun, try something new in class, throw it all against the wall and see what sticks! DBQ’s, memes, twitter conversations, click bait, timelines, videos, rap, etc. If you’ve heard about it, try it. Have a new idea, give it ago. There’s no shortage of idea sharing sites online and teachers love to share what works. The only requirement is that it must be done from start to finish in the time you have allotted for it in class. Some classes will respond better than others, and as time passes interests change and you’ll be ready. There is no fire-and-forget daily assignment. You’ll be there and you will always be involved. “But that’s so much more work for me,” is the repeated concern. Not really, the first part of your class is from the text (easy), second is a presentation (original work, textbook supplied, or purchased), third is the project and that’s when you’re really teaching. Best of all, the projects are small, grading is fast and simple, and it allows you to assess the students’ understanding topic by topic while you still have time to fix problems.
The Glitter Bomb
Education isn’t changing, it already has. The system expects more, faster, and often with less to work with. The teacher must make every moment count, from bell to bell. The days of glitter exploding in the classroom are over if want your kids to keep up. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but the fun must have the purpose of driving that One Topic deep. Read it, write it, see it, hear it, watch it, talk about it, then work with it. The results will be remarkable, without all the glitter.