Making an IMPACT

What's the one thing that could be changed in your school that would increase student achievement? Smaller class sizes? Better facilities? Less standardized testing? All of these improvements would make teachers, students, and parents happier and could increase student achievement. But none of these strategies directly impact students. Wouldn’t we do better to design strategies that are student-centered? Welcome to IMPACT 2013!For one week in June, 19 teachers came together to learn more about three student-centered strategies: project-based learning, engaging technology tools, and teaching students how to communicate effectively through speech. Each of these initiatives requires students to critically think and share their thoughts with others.Project-based learning (PBL) is different than just doing projects. Our IMPACT 2013 group learned about the difference between the two. Projects are fun activities that teachers assign after the learning has occurred. PBL involves deeper inquiry and asks students to answer an open-ended driving question. As they move through a unit, they're learning the essential content they need to know to answer the driving question. Students work in collaborative groups to design a project and then they share their projects with a public audience.To help teachers and students organize and communicate throughout the project development, engaging online tools such as wiki pages can be used. IMPACT 2013 teachers created their own wiki pages for classroom communication with students and teachers. Our friend Erik Palmer walked the teachers through the process and encouraged them to try one new tech tool in their classrooms next year. Check out some of these tools our teachers will be using this year: IMPACT Wiki Page, Vocaroo, Glogster, Little Bird Tales, and Empressr.Erik also presented essential information to help our students become better speakers. PVLEGS stands for Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures, and Speed. As our students graduate and move into the adult world, effective verbal communication will serve them well. And we should be encouraging and coaching this every day in our classrooms—starting in kindergarten! We created our own rubrics and discussed how to integrate them into what we already do.At the end of our week together, we were equipped to start the next school year with some very specific and practical strategies to increase student achievement in our classrooms. God has blessed our schools with dedicated, loving teachers who want to IMPACT our students. Thank you to all who participated in this fantastic week.