I have a number of significant pedagogical hurdles in front of me: inexperience, motivation, and parent values being the primary concerns.
Inexperience with the subject area
I have never taught the issue of balance or sleep with my students. I teach middle schoolers how to chunk out parts of major research projects, and I tell students to get a good night’s rest before major assessments, but I don’t explicitly teach about balance or sleep. So this Dream It project is my first attempt at what will probably need multiple iterations before it is a successful unit. Being unsure of what will work and what will not, I will teach about the topics in as many different ways as possible. Using Gardner’s multiple intelligences as a guide, I will create a diverse set of activities for students (Gardner, 2012).
A de-motivating topic
Who wants to talk about sleep? Snore. It will be a big challenge for me to find a way to frame this unit in a way that catches the natural curiosity of a seventh grader. Appealing to multiple intelligences is one way of keeping the learning engaging. I will also look closely for cues of inattention and constantly tinker with the activities based on what seems to hook the students and what falls flat. I want to find the equivalent of this Dan Meyer video on “how long will it take to fill”? How do I frame the unit so that students see the issues of balance and sleep as ones that are intriguing problems that require further investigation, rather than just another boring activity foisted on them by an adult?
I am designing the unit with two distinct parts. The first half of the unit will be teacher-directed and consist of 6-10 different short activities modeled on Gardner’s multiple intelligences. For example, spend fifteen minutes journal writing about what hobbies or skills you would love to learn how to do, which would appeal to linguistic and intrapersonal intelligences. The second half of the unit will be student directed: pick one of the activities or topics that was most intriguing to you and investigate it on your own over the course of 6 to 10 weeks.
This unit could appear to teach values that may conflict with those of the parents. Teaching a controversial topic is not a novel task for a social studies teacher: every year I teach a unit on American politics! So I will approach this topic in the same way, cognizant that there is more than one valid approach towards how an adolescent uses free time. I will be in contact with parents throughout the unit, sharing my lesson plans with them and asking them for feedback if they feel my activities are slanting the learning too far in one particular direction.