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Local Leaders of Social Change

School: Odyssey School of Denver

City/State: Denver, CO

Grade(s): 5

Format(s): Digital, Short Essay, Visual & Narrative Arts

Subject(s): English Language Arts

Category: Inspired by Curriculum

Project Overview

I am the fifth grade teacher at Odyssey School of Denver. I have 27 learners in my Crew, with a wide range of reading abilities, interests, and experiences. I redesigned the EL Module "Athlete Leaders of Social Change" to become "Local Leaders of Social Change" after implementing Unit 1 and Unit 2 of "Athlete Leaders". I wanted the learning to be more relevant and connected to the lives of my students, who are eager change makers who care deeply about their communities. I invited many guest speakers in from Denver who each inspired social change in their communities in various ways, eleven of which said yes. We had City Council members, architects for affordable housing, photographers, artists, Paralympic athletes, and more. The list of the guest speakers who either visited our crew, or brought us along a day's journey with them on field work is attached below as "Leaders of Social Change Guest Work and Field Work Outline". As each guest speaker came, my students studied them to determine what factors or qualities they had that made them successful agents of social change. They took notes, prepared questions, and found deep learning with each guest speaker. I purposely found guest speakers that were representative of my students through interests/passions, race, socioeconomic status, etc. My goal was to have at least one expert be directly relatable to every single one of the students in my Crew. Then, we dove into three performance tasks (see attachment "Performance Task Invitation"). Read more in the "Assignment" box.

See attached "Performance Task Invitation" for assignment descriptions. We started by voting on our collaborative performance task and how we would like to represent our learning in groups- students chose to make a quilt. We voted on the top six factors or qualities that all agents of social change must have, proven with evidence from our notes throughout each guest speaker. We made visuals for each key factor or quality, and voted with stickers. We took the top 12 factors and then students worked in groups to ween them down to the most important. Students had to consider, "What factor or quality could each of these experts simply not have done it without?". Factors and qualities were in expert language, such as "Find the YES people" or "Move with Humility and Faith", quotes taken from our guest speakers. Students argued for the factors they thought were the most important. Finally, we had six final factors, and students created small groups to represent their factors as a quilt square. We took weeks to work on this project, emphasizing the importance of high quality work. When each of our collaborative quilt squares were finalized, we spent a day sewing them all together into one final piece. Our final quilt is shown in the attached Drive link. It came out so beautiful. 

Then, it was time for students to plan their Passion Writing Piece. Their task is described in the "Performance Task Invitation". Students had to create a claim for an Opinion Writing Piece. Their claim was an actionable plan they truly believed they could implement in their lifetime, that was connected to a joy or passion in their lives, and would bring positive social change to their communities. We spent a few days just working on the claims themselves, making sure each student had a plan that was connected to something that brought them joy in life, because we learned from our experts that you have to be interested in and care about what you do each day in order to keep doing it. When each student had their claim written, it was time to plan out their essay. They chose two factors/qualities that experts had that they believed would help them arrive at their goal. These were the "reasons" for their claim. Within each reason, they explained two guest speakers who used that quality and how it helped them. This was their "reasoning". They ended with high quality essays that were a beautiful and solid plan for igniting positive social change in their communities. This is the highest quality writing I saw from every single one of my students this year. We engaged in multiple drafts, peer revision, and writing conferences to get to the level of high quality work that resulted. 

Finally, it was time for performance task 3. The invitation can be read in "Performance Task Invitation". Students planned how they could represent their dream plan for igniting positive social change by "showing the action" with their bodies. I hired a photographer to take their photos doing this action. For example, one student had a plan to create a mobile veterinary van that went to impoverished communities to help care for their animals. This student loves animals deeply and fused that into their plan for positive social change. For that students photo, he decided to squat down and hold his hand out as if petting a dog. Behind him, he would paint the vision of his mobile veterinary clinic in the background. This final product can be seen in the Google Drive Folder, called "Ollie's Final Art Piece (Performance Task 3)". 
Each student got their photo taken, and I got the photos printed. They cut themselves out and then created multiple sketch drafts of what would go behind their picture to make their claim/dream a reality through art. After weeks of working on this high quality art pieces, we were finished. Students framed their final art piece performance task, but we removed the cardboard rectangle frame. Students wrote speech bubbles with their claim and two "reasons" or key factors/qualities they would need to reach their dream. We learned from our experts that all leaders of social change need to have encouragement and support to reach their dreams. At our Exhibition Night, all of our attendees left positive messages of encouragement on those frames. Our communities supported our dreams, and then our final frames included those words of support. 

We ended up with amazing high quality work from this rewritten expedition. A beautiful quilt that now will now hang in our Odyssey hallway. Strong writing that lays out plans for positive social change for 27 students, each of which I firmly believe they could actually do in their lifetime because it is so firmly connected and fused with what brings them joy in life. And, finally, their final art pieces, a photo that captures the beauty of who each of them are at this time in their lives, with impressive visuals in the background depicting their dream, and actionable plan for social change.



Inspired by EL Education's ELA Curriculum G5:M3

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