Sunday, August 7, 2016

How we beat the post-lunch summer program slump... this time

How's this for summer school? Start the day with breakfast and a mini-lesson about plants. Head outside to tend your thriving gardens, measure plants for your experiments, fertilize, water, weed, whatever needs to be done. At 11:00, head back in, make a fresh lunch together, and eat.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? Until you realize that the last two hours of the day are inside, working on online  Aleks math or Moodle biology.

It's tough to stay focused on stuff like that, and that's been our biggest challenge with the program this summer.

We had two choices at this point: Accept the current low level of afternoon engagement as something we can't change or see it as an obstacle that we can overcome. So here's what we tried this week:

"OK, guys, we're gonna make a game of this. I'm going to time you for ten minutes. Stay focused on your work, and you get a white poker chip. We'll take a quick break and restart the timer. Plus, you get a chip for every topic you finish on Get 48 chips over the next four weeks, and you get full credit for this portion of the summer program... plus a bonus field trip."

They got through 5 full cycles of focused work and an average of twenty-something topics on Aleks! At one point, I placed a chip in front of a student, and he exclaimed, "Yes!"

I just finished my second run through Ryan Holiday's book, The Obstacle Is the Way, and this is his basic message: See obstacles as opportunities for growth, take action when you can, and persevere.

Who knows if this will continue to work for us, but if nothing else, this obstacle became an opportunity. For me, it was an opportunity to try out some gamification. For them, it was an opportunity for some small wins.