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The Scorpion Project: Novel Inquiry in Progress

By Ivy Waite, grade 9 Humanities

This novel inquiry is housed online at The Scorpion Project. As students are sharing their work through blogger, building the project there as well allows us to model the use of technology that we expect to see. 

Novel studies are supposed to be about connecting with literature. They are intended to give readers an opportunity to look deeper into themselves and their surroundings through another set of experiences, whether real or fictional. The Scorpion Project is more than a novel study however, it is a novel inquiry

The project launch began with a conversation about inquiry and how it might look in the context of a novel study. Student comments in this discussion focused on the importance of asking insightful questions, digging deeper, considering the bigger picture, and making connections between ideas and topics. This is exactly what I had in mind when designing the project...    

Students in The Scorpion Project are told to: "Follow your curiosities.  Monitor meaning and determine importance as you share in Matt’s journey.  Visualize and make connections with this novel in your own way." 

What I initially envisioned and what has come to fruition are two different things. I expected that in the classroom our novel inquiry would entail groups determining (through recorded round table conversations) what they believed to be the most important element to focus on, for the section of the novel being examined that week, before exploring the idea through blog posts. 

In reality, I quickly realized two things: 1. This activity has limited opportunities for engagement, and 2. Not all students are equally prepared for this type of independent literary analysis.

The solution? Weekly team challenges that are designed to authentically engage students while requiring that they consider the literature more deeply, and weekly individual blog posts exploring different areas of the novel.

Team Challenge #1:
Team Challenge #2:
Student work is shared through Blogger, which has enabled students to share their work easily with one another, with both grade 9 humanities teachers, and with the world. When their work has an authentic, real audience, it becomes more meaningful and rich. That work would be shared on the web also opened up a conversation about academic excellence and has led to the creation of rich and impressive content. Student work can be viewed through The Scorpion Project main page, under the Student Blogs list.

One demonstration of exemplary learning!

I wanted this project to challenge students to use technology as a tool to help them take their insight and understanding to a new level.  I saw Twitter as one way for students to share observations and questions about the novel with their groups in order to stimulate rich conversations surrounding the novel. Twitter forces student's to be succinct and to make sure that their words matter. Check out how the student's are utilizing social media to aid in inquiry here: @IvyWaite!
As the unit unfolds it is growing beyond what I had initially intended, and becoming more rich as a result. Collaborating with my teaching partner has taken my vision to a new level, and feedback from the students has helped to ensure that the project is engaging and meaningful for them. As we plan to assess student work it is becoming clear that we will not be able to mark each and every piece of writing. Rather, a balance of formative and summative assessment - clearly focused on the insight that students are demonstrating - will be necessary to ensure that this is manageable. 

I cannot wait to see where else this work goes, and look forward to writing about the project upon it's completion, highlighting how it aligns with the CSS frameworks of Exemplary Teaching and Learning. Stay tuned to The Scorpion Project to watch it unfold!

If you would like to be involved with The Scorpion Project as a judge of final work, please email, or Tweet @IvyWaite!

This project was inspired by Christian Long's The Alice Project and I thank him for paving the road to more meaningful work with literature.

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Ivy, I really like your emphasis on engaging your students in a novel inquiry which as you demonstrate through your blog, is so much more than a novel study. It was interesting to learn more about how you are using Blogger for your students to demonstrate their deep understanding of the novel and to model the effective use of technology as a learning tool. Through your blog you share some significant insights and effective strategies(such as the weekly team challenges and the use of twitter for your students to succintly share their insights), which other teachers embarking on a similar journey of inquiry will find useful. As you observe in your blog, when student work has an authentic, real audience it becomes much more meaningful. It is a great idea to invite readers of your blog to become involved in this exciting learning experience by serving as judges of the final work of your students.

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