Pitch Day 2019

You can smell it in the air. Something exciting and, for many, nerve-inducing, was on the agenda for class yesterday. “Happy Thursday Pitchers!” I began, and it was game time. The order of students who would be presenting their pitches for their TTalks for Impact would be ready to get up in front of their class to share why this topic made an impact on them and what they hope to learn from their further research. This is the third time that I’ve facilitated a Genius Hour meets Twenty Percent Time meets Passion Project meets BOB, and I was excited for each one.

Through the indirect support of educators like Joy Kirr and the direct support Kim Pollishuke, who I actually get to learn from through my board now, I developed what came to be called TTalk. It first began as TTime Talk with a nod to Google’s 20% Time. My students journeyed through this project based learning with me when I was teaching a course for MYP 2 in the IB program called Individuals and Societies, As a result, the theme came under the umbrella of sustainability. When my Grade 7’s did this project the following year, they renamed it TTalk and created a logo with a TED Talk shout-out because the project culminates in a TED-like talk. This year, teaching Grade 8 public school and using this project for Literacy, I renamed it TTalks for impact, as our inquiry unit is an exploration of how we can make a more positive impact on the world.

Yesterday's pitches were more various because I am doing this as part of Literacy and not for Geography. The topics chosen by the students after a series of exploratory activities include:

  • Police Brutality

  • Racism and Discrimination

  • Air Pollution

  • Water Pollution

  • Water Scarcity

  • Clean Water

  • Immigration

  • Human Impact on the Environment

  • Deforestation

  • Bullying

  • Homelessness

  • Screen Addiction

  • The Negative Impact of Technology

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • OCD

  • Animal Abuse

You can see most of them on our graffiti board:

The TTalk work was transpiring simultaneous to our Data Management unit on purpose. While they weren't fully integrated units, it provided an immediate and authentic platform for the integrative thinking to really look at data management critically. Students were exploring how to gather data related to their topic as a tool to substantiate their perspective. Additionally, we did activities to help them analyse their data, raising questions about sample size, which format was most valid and clear. Students were also able to analyse their choices for accuracy, corroboration, bias and more. It really helped them reconsider some of their sources, the date their data was collected in terms of relevance, and how the data was collected. Additionally, displaying the right data in the right way could enhance their presentation because they’d be employing the persuasive strategy of logos which uses facts and evidence as tools to strengthen an argument or be more convincing in their point of view.

I have been and will be teaching mini lessons each day to support their work. I could probably write a post on each lesson, but here are some of them:

  • criteria for an effective presentation

  • how to gather relevant information

  • how to substantiate ideas with facts and examples

  • a review of summarization noting the distinction between that, paraphrasing and plagiarism (This was the biggest shocker for me with Grade 8 students. While it was was a planned lesson, I had to move it up in the progression when their Science teacher showed me the reports that my class had done and noted that many of the Grade 8’s across three classes just used similes and rearranged words, essentially plagiarizing their reports.)

  • criteria for an effective pitch

  • tools for a TED-like talk

  • finding role models and causes you are passionate about

  • citations in MLA format

  • triangulating data to corroborate information

  • analysing bias in perspective

  • using video as a reflective tool (watching pitches and determining next steps)

  • blogging

  • action planning

  • responding to blog posts in meaningful ways

That is what I love so much about project-based learning. All lessons are contextualized and immediately applied to a meaningful (hopefully), real-world (ideally) scenario.

The TTalks for Impact are in-class project-based learning experiences over 6 weeks. The, the project morphs into a Building Outside the Blocks project I call a BOB. I allocated 30 minutes per day for the project (20% of my half day teaching time with them). After yesterday, Pitch Day, the students watched the video of their pitches for homework and shared their next steps in a 1-1 conference with with me. Next week, my students will choose their presentation dates beginning the week after March Break and ending the second week of April, with no more than 3 students presenting on a give day. That reflects the time and some of the choice aspects of the Building Outside the Blocks (BOB) Approach. In a month, the students will no longer receive class time and will have to self-direct their home time to work on their presentations in view of their self-selected due date.

By the second week of of April, the students will have followed and revised their action plans, written three blog entries to track and own their learning, read and responded to classmate’s blog posts, and presented their TTalks for Impact to their class audience who will give them feedback. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey from pitch to posts to presentations.

I played my class out at the end of the morning with the only soundtrack that made sense for the day. As Anna Kendrick and the entire cast layered their sound, the aca-joy of Party in the USA brought everyone into celebration mode. You can check out some of the pics and 2 of the pitches on our class Twitter account. I love Pitch Day!