Choices! pt2: when it has(n’t?) worked for me… Neverwhere webquest

In the past few weeks, I helped build a campaign that would charge up our students’ interest in our school’s summer reading book, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  During the discussion, I was turned to in order to add the technological spice that might draw in our digital natives.  With many things still in discussion / planning (QR codes on our classroom doors that directed students to our favorite landmarks in London; a return-to-school comic writing or video production contest; a Google Earth lit trip that followed the references in the text), I began to work on a webquest that would preview the book, giving students many opportunities to explore.  Each option was meant to build background knowledge.  Three used some form of graphic organizers (two of which were variations of Venn diagrams).  Three were purely creatively constructive.  I wanted choice to show how this can be flexible to teachers’ styles or schedules.  Also, I wanted to provide for the many outlets of expression and appeal to the interests or prior knowledge bases of our diverse student body.

I used the webquest as a sub plan when I missed a day of school last week, but I was surprised to return to a folder mostly full of Venn diagrams.  I was disappointed and yet not entirely surprised, because I saw little demonstration of creativity.  Granted, I did set them up for this when I came up with the choices.  I also wasn’t in the classroom that day, so I don’t know exactly what the classroom mood was or if more direction was needed.  Venns have been a popular choice of expression in other activities.  I’m still debriefing, but I’m surprised that even in a situation where they are building knowledge (or connecting it with existing knowledge), students still ended up choosing the format that is common to skill and drill.  I’ll be eliciting feedback from my colleagues this week.  If you’ve got feedback on the webquest or on the conundrum, let me know.

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