It was an experiment -- a lesson that might help teacher Susan Lovelace make the leap from the sage's stage; but she knew the lesson could just as easily fall flat on its face. Wasn't she surprised at the creativity students poured into Fabulous Friday assignments -- and the learning and increased confidence that resulted!
How many of us have spent countless hours doing research, gathering materials, and preparing what we think will be the Ultimate Teaching Experience -- only to see the lesson fall apart five minutes into the first-period class? Surprises such as those are part of the teaching profession -- a part most schools of ed do not prepare us for.
Then there are the other kinds of surprises -- the lessons we stumble on that turn out to be the most engaging and professionally rewarding. For me, "Fabulous Friday" is one of those experiences. It is a lesson that has evolved into one of the most anticipated days of shared learning for my students and for me.THE ORIGINS OF FABULOUS FRIDAY
Several years ago, I took the fearful leap from being the "sage on the stage." Deep down, I was convinced that nothing my students could generate would be as fantastic or as cognitively dazzling as what I was capable of directing them to produce, but I had made up my mind to give it a go.
I have always taught literature with Meyer Abrams's (The Mirror and the Lamp) critical theories on textual analysis in mind; and I plan lessons based on Howard Gardener's theories of multiple intelligences. So I plunged ahead with an assignment that seemed to me to reflect those theories. I challenged my students to research an aspect of the world that produced the literature they were studying. They could investigate the social or cultural climate of the times, the life of the author, or the lives of the audience it was written for. I also encouraged them to add their own personal, creative responses to their research.
The result has been amazing!
Yes, Fabulous Friday generates historical research, critical analysis of literature, and biographical information about the authors. More importantly -- and surprisingly -- FF has given my students an opportunity to shine. Recent Fabulous Friday presentations have included Spenserian sonnets written about the cafeteria, unleavened "Viking Bagels" to enjoy along with Norse mythology, toothpick models of the Globe Theater, marvelous watercolor prints and oil paintings of scenes from novels, swing dance lessons, video renditions of the "real" Beowulf, and Power Point presentations on the life of Edward II.THE BIGGEST LESSON WAS MINE
My students relish the opportunity to teach their peers new information through their Fabulous Friday projects. Giving them an opportunity to share what they learn seems to boost -- no, launch -- their confidence. I simply sit back and listen and learn right along with them. I marvel as I watch their individual talents surface and see the proud looks of accomplishment on their faces.
Most important of all, I now realize that trusting my students to take ownership of their learning is the most rewarding experience I can give them.
Since Fabulous Friday has flourished, I have created a rubric that lists the criteria for the research and creative portions of the assignment. Students are required to do an initial primary search on their topic; from that search, they can choose to investigate a specific topic of interest. They also are required to write a short explanation -- we call it a "justification paper"-- to explain what they did creatively and how it ties to their text."COOL!"
One of the greatest benefits of Fabulous Friday is that my classroom is now full of students' creative efforts. The room has literally come alive with their responses to literature.
Recently, a young student new to the school entered my classroom on an errand. "What do you teach?" she asked as she looked around curiously.
"English," I replied.
"Cool!" was her startled response.
Susan Lovelace teaches at Sebastian River High School in Sebastian, Florida. A teacher for 16 years, Lovelace is a National Board Certified teacher in Young Adult and Adolescent Language Arts and a member of the Florida League of Teachers.
Article by Susan Lovelace
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