This is cross-posted from Patti L. Grayson’s blog, a PLPeep from the Dublin Dallas cohort. Read it and feel the enthusiasm!

I’m not sure why the graphic you see here appeals to me, except that the overall shape looks like a brain to me…  I see individuals in a colorful, inviting place, on their own path, taking the time to explore and discover.   I want this to be my classroom!

Today was a pretty awesome day in 3rd grade…  The best part was that I had no idea what was coming.  It was entirely spontaneous!  In our Morning Meeting, we talked about what we were going to learn today, and a student asked me if we were going to learn about something that is not part of our studies.  This launched a wonderful discussion about learning that was too good to pass up…  I reminded them of a journal topic a while back, asking them to think about what they would like to learn.

I’ll admit here that I had truly intended to schedule some time for them to pursue these “passions”.  Unfortunately, things got busy, and it seemed there was never time to go exploring…  I felt I had to maintain a strict pace in our core subjects.  We never got to it.

Today we took the time.  We talked in more depth about the things they might want to learn that were not taught at school – The topics ranged from animals to authors to historic events to inventions…  I ignored my lesson plans, dropped everything, and got the laptops.

I can honestly say that I have never seen my students so enthusiastic about learning.  The freedom they felt to explore any topic was overwhelming at first, but soon they felt like they could tackle anything!  They quickly learned how to follow links from kid-safe search engines, and were off and running.

I walked around and saw a Roald Dahl website, a video about flying cars, a National Geographic site on monkeys, a math game using coins, biography information on soccer player Steven Gerrard…  Kids started getting up and checking out what others were finding, then going back to explore.  Before I knew it, over an hour had flown by and it was almost time for P.E.!  At 10:30 I delivered them to P.E., and collapsed in my desk chair exhausted, yet exhilarated.

This prompted a decision to formally incorporate student-driven learning into my curriculum, now known as “Free2Learn Fridays”!  For one hour on Friday morning, we will take the time to explore and learn.  Students will be held accountable, and will be asked to share or write about what they have learned.  I showed them my Diigo page of bookmarks, and we’ll learn to keep track of their favorite sites on a class Diigo account.  So cool.

The fun didn’t end there.  When I picked the kids up from P.E., I found them in small groups on the gym floor.  I soon found that our P.E. teacher had charged them with creating a game!  They were busy recording the materials needed, rules for play, and other important information.  When finished, the groups had to take their “proposal” to the P.E. teacher and explain their game.  They will get to try the games and make any necessary modifications.  The final game rules will be published and kept for them to play in class.  What a great creative activity!

I’m excited about these great steps we are taking.  This quote I found sums it up quite nicely:

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.”~Clay P. Bedford

Check out another recent post by Patti on changin’ times!

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.
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