Last month I visited Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa and had the pleasure of meeting Kyle Haselton, a second year English teacher. Kyle’s been kind enough to open his classroom door and share his experiences, including ways he engages students through active, skills-forward learning.
What does it mean to support active, skills-forward learning? What’s that look like in your classroom?
Supporting active, skills-forward learning means providing students with opportunities to learn by doing, and to develop the skills they need to succeed in life beyond high school. In my classroom, this looks like students engaging in hands-on, project-based learning activities that are designed to help them practice real-world skills. These activities are always driven by student interests. In the first journey of the year (i.e., first curricular unit), entitled “Nature”, students choose a project that helps them explore their definition of nature and why it is important to them. One student chose to research alternative fuels. They asked questions, investigated the topic, and wrote a research paper. Another student chose to focus on a piece of creative writing about fire ecology in Sonoma County. In their writing, they reflected on their own relationship with nature and collaborated with their peers to learn about their relationships with nature as well.
Throughout this process, I am not the only source of information and knowledge in the classroom; I encourage my students to explore and discover information for themselves, and to collaborate with their peers.
How do you support student agency and engagement in your classes?
I support student agency and engagement in my classes by providing opportunities for students’ to express their voices and make choices. I give students options for how they want to complete assignments and projects, and I encourage them to bring their own interests and ideas to the table. I also provide regular feedback to my students and work with them to set personal goals and milestones for their learning.
Check out these resources that support students with making choices about their learning (just enter your name and email to get free access).
Describe a quest artifact or journey project that students really got into. What did they do? What skills did they practice? Why was it an effective activity?
One of my favorite journeys is “Authority.” In this journey we have a quest that focuses on George Orwell’s text Animal Farm. After reading the text, students were able to express their learning through a variety of projects. One project students chose was to create a detailed society with a specific governmental system, including a map of their utopia, which they named Luran. They had to consider various aspects such as class system, laws, media, personal freedoms, religion, values, family, natural resources, imports/exports, etc. The students had to choose an existing governmental/economic system or create their own.
During this project, the students practiced a variety of skills such as investigating and asking questions about how various societies function. They were able to incorporate their creativity in expressing their interpretation of different types of authority. They also had to collaborate with their peers and discuss various ideas to create a cohesive society that functions as a utopia.
This project was effective because it allowed the students to think critically and creatively about the world around them. It challenged them to think beyond their immediate surroundings and consider what they would want in an ideal society. Additionally, the project encouraged collaboration and communication among the students, which is an important skill to have in any setting. Overall, it was a fun and engaging project that allowed the students to showcase their creativity and critical thinking skills.
Interested in supporting active, skills-forward learning in your English classes? Check out these free resources or contact our team at email@example.com to gain access to the curriculum Kyle uses.
What’s your favorite part about working at Quest Forward Academy?
My favorite part about working at Quest Forward Academy is being able to witness my students explore their learning and take ownership of their education. As a teacher, I get to play the role of a mentor, guiding and supporting them along their educational journey. It’s incredibly rewarding to see them develop critical thinking skills and become independent learners who are passionate about their own growth and development.
What’s your favorite resource or tool created by Opportunity Education to help you support active, skills-forward learning?
Engagement feedback is an essential tool that allows us to better understand our students and how they connect with the material. By tracking patterns of student engagement in class, we can gain valuable insights into their learning process and tailor our teaching methods accordingly. This feedback allows us to see which students are actively participating in discussions and activities, which may need more support to engage with the material, and which are excelling and may need more challenging assignments.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I am a big fan of long-distance running, but when I’m too tired to go out for miles, you can find me playing fetch with my Border Collie, Oliver.