Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Written Communication life skills lesson and continuing the Mission Innovation project

The “Mission Innovation” research project continued with students researching their topic on the internet.  Students needed to understand why their topic was important, what solutions had already been tried and why the topic still needed attention, and also to research their ideas to see if someone had already tried their ideas.

The research project is structured such that students receive a lesson or sometimes multiple lessons that build their skills.  They then have another session where they can practically apply those new skills as they complete their research project’s next step.

The internet research session occurred after students learned about the internet and internet safety.  Students also had a Life Skills module on written communication.  This lesson described the importance of a presentation’s objective, the main sections of a presentation, and also discussed the five Ws of Who, What, When, Where, and Why.  We left "how" for another day, given the aggressive time schedule.  Before answering the 5W questions for their research topic, students did an exercise to document their presentation objective and then another of matching various statements with the appropriate “W.”

For example, “because it will increase the food supply” is an example of answering the question “Why?”

Some students were asked to hold signs with one of the five Ws.  Other students took a sample statement and, with the audience’s help, chose the correct W to stand by.  Students enjoyed the activity, though it inspired some questions regarding nuances associated with the English language.

Students received worksheets which they began completing to answer as many of the 5Ws associated with their project as possible.  The questions they could not answer were either questions they could research or decide that the question did not apply in their case.  For example, the “Who” section of their worksheet asked:
  • Who is involved in with your research topic?
  • Who is in your group? Who will your audience be?
  • Who are the experts on your topic?
  • Who is impacted by your topic?
  • Who has tried to help solve the problem?
  • Who might be able to help solve the problem?
Excerpt from the Written Communication Worksheet

Family leaders played a vital role mentoring teams in deciding and documenting their objective as well as in discerning which questions to answer, which ones to research and which ones to skip.  They also played a significant role in helping students, especially students inexperienced in internet usage, in selecting search terms that would quickly yield information.  Finally, they helped students determine if the site they found had credible information or not.

Students also began brainstorming on solutions ideas as they saw what solutions have already been tried or implemented by others.  For most students this was a new experience and family leader mentors were essential to helping the students explore ideas.  This usually best happened if mentors asked students to tell them what they had learned about the topic, what they had learned about solutions, why they chose this topic, what they thought might help, and what role they thought technology could play in helping.

Immediately after conducting their internet research, students began writing their presentation.  This again required heavy involvement by the family leader mentors because students had varying experience levels in summarizing ideas for presentation format versus writing prose in paragraph form.

As student began writing their presentation drafts, they further explored their solution ideas.  By this time in the project, students were very engaged in their topics but also working against a deadline since they needed to present the very next morning.

For some of the teachers, mentoring a team in problem solving techniques was new so the students and ICT teachers both developed skills.  As was the case last year, by the end of the presentation creation session with markers, notes and flip chart pages strewn about, some folks doubted the students would complete in time.  But, I had confidence in them and they did not disappoint.

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