ELA: A Classroom with a Purpose

  • Definition of epic

         1: A story or narrative centered around a hero
         2: Extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope
    "If learning is not memorable, should it be considered learning?" 
    -- Trevoir Muir

    The idea is simple.  We are in a new era where the skills students learn are often more important than the content because all the information we need can be found instantly on cell phones, tablets, and the internet.  Students need to learn how to identify the problems and resources in solving those problems, professionally collaborate, and prioritize their days and weeks to complete a complex task or project.
    The idea of an Epic Classroom was coined by Trevoir Muir: A history and ELA teacher from Michigan.  Students create real life stories where they are characters (dare I say heroes) in a life situation.  From start to finish, students are involved in identifying a need, planning the project, designing the classroom to fit the scope they created, and then solving the problem for the need they identified.  
    Through this process, I focus on small group workshops rather than whole class direct instruction.  This allows students to look ahead and plan their activities to attend workshops where they are lacking, and skipping those they already know to work on their project.  Students then take ownership over their learning environment, and the discussions move from a 1:35 ratio into 1:5 or 1:10.  We cover far more material at a faster pace.
    The responsibility on the students are tremendous.  They are learning to organzie their project and plan out their week based on upcoming workshops and teacher driven deadlines.  They need to partner with peers that will enable them to be more successful rather than just working with friends.  And because we are working on ways to help the outside world, the things the students learn and work on have a purpose!
    Many parents ask me for examples on what we have done under the Epic Classroom design.  I wanted to share a few examples with you:
    • Never Forgotten: In this project titled, students have partnered with retired citizens to capture their stories.  By using their strengths, these retirees were presented with short stories, comic books, digital movies and more that they could keep and pass down to their grandchildren, preserving their stories forever.  The goal was to pass on their memories to their families so they were Never Forgotten. 
    • Saving a Life: For a focus on Informational writing, students planned and hosted an adoption day at Mendive that they titled Saving a Life.  Rather than writing informational essays, students were given the opportunity to create fliers, posters, brochures, press releases and more.  PowerPoint style presentations were replaced with phone calls to the local news stations, store managers, and students from another school.  Through this project, students created actual informational projects that were applied to a real-life situation.  
    • Operation Finding Hope: California went through some horrible fires where many families lost their homes.  During our creative writing section, students were able to show off their writing skills and turn their work into children's stories.  These stories were mailed to families that lost their homes, allowing those kids to have something that they could call their own once again.