A while ago Mathews decided to host a contest to find the best teaching strategies. The reasoning here is quite sound, he wanted to highlight specific positive things happening rather than just vague educational ideas.
The winner with the best teaching strategy is an eighth grade teacher at a private school.
Here’s how her immigration project works: Her students are grouped into make-believe families. They pretend they are immigrating here in about 1900. In language arts, they blog about the experience. In science, they study the diseases that afflicted immigrants. In social studies, they analyze immigration laws. In foreign language, they take a look at countries that provided the most immigrants.I love this project. It is engaging, builds connections, and allows for student choice. I would love to see projects like this happening all over the place.
I have two problems however. The standards that policy makers love keep this from happening in our public schools. If the project was planned around social studies standards on immigration and teachers tried to include diseases in science class there wouldn't be enough time to teach the required science standards. The way our standards are designed completely roadblocks making meaningful connections in this way.
My second issue is more nit-picky. This isn't a teaching strategy. This is a project. It is an awesome one that I would love to participate in but it isn't a strategy. Highlighting effective, interesting teaching strategies is worth Jay Mathews' time still.
Mathews' posts typically have dozens of comments. This one has only five. What does that mean? Does that suggest that people aren't interested in this topic?