K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Daniel Lunk
Date created
November 2010
Flash Video
This video copyright ©2010. Terms of use

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This video uses classroom footage and teacher interviews to offer ideas on implementing assignments based on real-world perspectives. Teachers from elementary, middle, and high school share advice and suggest how to overcome common challenges.

This video is one in a four-part series about creating and implementing perspectives-based assignments. The other videos include:

The videos are associated with the article “Who Cares?: Using Real-World Perspectives to Engage Academically Gifted Learners.”


Hayden Simon (00:13)
My advice to teachers that wanted to use this would be just start off small. You know, I’ve started off with my kids, we have a sheet of paper, and we’re just kind of coming up with topics together. We’re writing them on the sheet of chart paper. Then when they have extra time, they’re going, they’re researching, and they’re finding out more about, you know, those professions, or those people, or whatever it might be. I’ve done a lot of us coming up of things together using sticky notes, them coming up with their own ideas. So just start small. And I would say brainstorm with your students first. Don’t just throw them out there and have them do it. I’m kind of a structured teacher, so that’s what I would have them do first.
Molly Patterson (00:55)
Well if you’re just starting to use this unit I would say it’s kind of an individual approach. I did it completely different than I have this year. Last year I didn’t use sticky notes.

[In class] (1:06)
We’re going to choose off of our chart six different sticky notes that you had come up with.

[In interview] (1:14)
This year I have started to use sticky that my kids could actually take the topic off of the chart, take it to the computer, do the research, and take the sticky note and attach it to maybe the product they were doing. Sometimes I just do it on chart paper, and we just write as we think, we just jot down ideas. So really there is no right or wrong way to do this activity. I think even if you just started off by making a chart, just so the kids could actually have a visual of all of the people that care about a certain topic, and then maybe the next time you did it you could create the chart and then have the kids start doing research. So if you just kind of take one step at a time, you might not need to go full-force: I’m going to do this, then you’re going to research it. Even if they can just have a visual for one topic to see who cares, and then if they want to do research they can, but don’t maybe force it, and then the next topic you could do the same thing, but assign a couple of different topics to be researched.
And it doesn’t work for all subjects either, it doesn’t work for every topic if you’re doing "making inferences" in class, I mean, you might be able to think of a few different professions that would care about making inferences, but are you really going to generate as many ideas as you would for a science topic or for poetry and reading? So it’s just kind of something that you might fail a couple of times doing in front of your class, and then you’ll realize. So you might need to sit down first and say to yourself, "Can I think of…" If I can’t think of as many topics, are my students going to be able to come up with as many people, or professions that care. So it’s one of those — it’s one of those types of activities that you have to sit down first, and you have to really try to come up with a list on your own.
Hayden Simon (02:53)
I think when I use the strategy of the "who cares," it allows me to step back as a teacher and it allows them to really engage themselves in their own learning. I feel that I’m not having to do so much for them, even so much preparation — I mean, it’s important for me to know that, you know, the topic that I come up with they’re going to be able to find resources for, like, poetry, that I could come up with people that would use poetry on an everyday basis or who care about poetry. But it really is allowing me to kind of give them the topics, or help them come up with them, and then step back and see what they are coming up with on their own. And a lot of times, it’s really surprising, and it tells you a lot about the levels of the children.
Molly Patterson (03:38)
[In class] So how has it changed over time? [In interview] Well as far as the classroom management piece, I feel if you have the materials that you need, there won’t be any sort of classroom management issues. Now as far as the computers go you do have to monitor what they’re researching on the internet. I had some students say to me, "I can’t find any information on this, Mrs. Patterson, can I please research a different topic about this that has to do with the same thing?" So they’re kind of good at managing themselves and not taking too much time to be wasted. So they’re pretty good about keeping on task if they’re given the appropriate materials to use, and if they’re given the appropriate amount of time.
Ebony Williams (04:17)
Using this strategy has impacted my planning, because it is more time-consuming than a regular lesson plan. You want to make sure that every area is reached and that every student is going to be able to grasp the concept and utilize it and see that this works this way, it can work in different ways, how they can apply it to anything that they want to use in life.
Carrie Brewington (04:42)
I’ve found that almost every single lab, and every single activity can be used in a real-world perspective. For example, it’s a very common lab in biology to do DNA extraction from a strawberry, and so, rather than just have them go through the lab, and go through the report and go through the steps and procedures, to put it into a real-world perspective is, “okay, well, you are a genetic engineer and you want to genetically engineer these strawberries so that they last longer, they’re riper, they’re juicier, and they’re going to stay fresh in the market longer.” And so you can kind of put that perspective into just a simple lab. And I’ve found that I’ve been able to do that with almost every single activity: Give it it a real-world perspective, and it really captures that student interest, so they see that as not just a lab that they’re doing, but they can see why they’re doing it, the importance of it, the purpose of it, and it gives it more meaning.
Molly Patterson (05:34)
Some of the challenges I’ve faced is the background knowledge. So sometimes I will introduce a "who cares about" at the beginning if I feel the students have that background knowledge. And as far as electricity and magnetism goes, my challenge was I knew I needed to teach through the unit before I could do the "who cares about electricity and magnetism" because I don’t think a lot of them had the background knowledge about the topic. As far as graphing went, we did the graphing one before the unit because I know that they had the background knowledge K through three, but as far as science goes, I think that’s more of a challenge, having just the background knowledge and the resources needed.
This approach does require more tools. I have to, I kind of have to find different spots for my students to do research, I only have three computers, so they have to maybe go in different classrooms to do research or to be able to check out books from our library and sometimes those resources are limited, so I’ll go to the public library for them to do the research. That’s why this is part of our "what can I do when I’m through" activity, so this is something they could actually go take a post-it note off of a chart, take it to a computer and research it. So sometimes we do it as a whole-group activity, and that’s when I need a lot of resources, and maybe some extra people in here to maybe help me with it, but most of the time my students do this as an individual project or maybe with just a partner.
I try to think of, is this an activity or is this a unit that I can set my kids free and let them do it independently, or is this a unit that they will probably need some support from another student to be successful? And who will I match up in order for them to be successful and to feel success for themselves?
[In class] (07:12)
Would you three like to maybe separate yourself over there. You can choose to do that together once it comes time. Okay.
[In interview] (07:18)
If we do grouping with this approach, I’ll take a survey. So before we did put them into the groups for this lesson, they were surveyed on which topics interested them the most. Or they could get in in their groups, or if there was one person in the group who did not want to work on that particular subject, they could move to a different area. But I’ll — if they work in groups — I’ll take a survey, ask them which ones they are most interested in, and then they can work together. And that way they still have interest there, they’re still engaged, they’re not doing something that they don’t find interesting.
Ebony Williams (07:52)
If another teacher was willing to implement the "who cares" into their lesson, I would say be patient, be calm, and go wild, all at the same time. It isn’t easy in the beginning, but once the transition starts, it’s a smooth flow, and then you’ll have so much that you want to do, not enough time to do, it’s — it gets real crazy. But it’s fun and crazy, and the students actually love it.