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Building Templates in a new World

I’ve often written about templates in my former job as a 7th grade math teacher. Now that I am finally getting my feet under me in my new position (6th grade Special Education), I’m able to start looking ahead a bit and I’m starting to think about how to help my students, now, less so in math, and more in their long-term projects, such as this one in science:

When I looked over a sample project from a colleague who taught the class last year, I immediately saw a template start coming together in my mind:

I realized I wanted to have one slide per room (or else I would have students who “lose” rooms) and I wanted to have three prompts per page (or, again, things would get lost). I also wanted the reminder that they need an image for each room.

Students would have to make choices (What room are they designing for? What is the change they would make? Would the change save energy or increase energy efficiency?). A good template provides reminders of the details, especially the ones that students tend to lose track of, but does NOT provide answers. If a student chooses replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs, they will still need to know if that is to save energy or to increase energy efficiency. But at least using the template will provide the structure to remember that that question needs to be addressed.

Some of my students struggle to synthesize information. They don’t take in information well, especially in the virtual setting, where they are forever “losing” documents and links. While I think some of the fault lies in course organization, the reality is that, as a teacher, I need to address it regardless. So I put together the list above as a starting point for students for ideas for their changes. Again, the ideas on the list do not identify their role (save energy or increase energy efficiency), the ideas are not an exhaustive list, and the ideas are not tied to a specific room, all of which would be overly directive. However, I can imagine that even some of my reluctant/disengaged students could get a good amount of the work done, giving them a way into the work when starting from zero.

Thanks to Shannon Beauregard for the project and the sample work.

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