Debriefing Student Projects

I must govern the clock, not be governed by it. 
~Golda Meir

Time is one of the biggest challenges we face in the classroom and class projects often aren't assigned by teachers because they take a lot of time for students to complete. I prefer to prove that these projects are clear examples of time used wisely but one area I usually tend to spend less of our time on is debriefing. Two activities we completed in class today proved to me that debriefing is as truly as valuable as the project itself.

Student Historians created fact-based skits today related to Northern factory life during the American Industrial Revolution. The skits needed to answer the question "If you were a 13 year old in the North in the early 1800s would you have worked in a textile mill?" Students prepared for this project by analyzing primary sources, reading anecdotal stories, and viewing clips. Each group needed to write scripts (one per person) and practice before performing. I did not require line memorization--they could use their script during their performance. 
The groups were highly engaged and enjoyed the novelty of performing. The skits themselves were quite creative (one group used sound effects from their iPad!) and full of factual information and sensory details related to the harsh factory conditions.

Acting in front of peers can be stressful for teens and I decided that the risk-taking they were experiencing needed to be rewarded with a team-building activity. Before presenting, students created notes for each group. The students needed to write down one positive comment about each performance after viewing it and students modeled examples of high-quality comments.

The discussions after each class performance were so cool! I loved seeing each group receive praise from their peers. (When student groups were called out for comments these students sat straighter when it was their turn--it was like they were waiting for this moment all day!) My historians provided thoughtful and high-quality feedback for one another--this was such an effective exercise and an incredibly valuable use of time.

The second debriefing activity was a student Socrative exit ticket. I like the formative feedback it provides and today's reinforced the need to spend our time in class creating projects. My last question for them was "how did this skit help you learn this material?" and student answers were very insightful. The comments below prove to me that debriefing is an essential component of learning and a valuable use of time.

it helped us to truly understand the conditions the factory workers lived in because in order to play our parts, we had become our characters.

Creating a skit benefitted me as a learner because I paid more attention to my research in this activity since this activity seemed pleasing. Since this activity was fun, I put more work in writing the script than I would have put in an essay. This assignment also helped me learn quickly and easily.

The skit really benefitted me because i got to use what i learn in a real example of what life whatve been like back then. The experimce felt more real because we got to be in the worker's shoes and feel what they would've felt.


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