Designing and Implementing Projects

There are many areas of teaching that truly excite me.  So far I have discussed writing, with an emphasis on revision, and reading—both obvious talking points for an author. This month I’d like to highlight another one of my favorites, and one of Mr. Terupt’s–and Luke’s!—specialties: Projects!

Tip # 3:  Designing and Implementing Projects

Why turn a lesson into a project? It’s a great way to help get your students enthusiastic about a subject and shows everyone that learning can be fun. Not everything you teach needs to become a project-based activity, but most anything you teach can become one.

Let’s consider one of my favorite math challenges—Dollar Words—as an example. (See p. 8 in Because of Mr. Terupt for an explanation of dollar words.) Rather than giving students only a few minutes to tackle this addicting problem, why not make it a project?  Jazz things up by asking for a poster that not only displays dollar words but also includes a written explanation detailing all the strategies used and patterns discovered along the way that helped the student. These strategies might include data tables or scrambling letters in a word to find new words and patterns with certain prefixes and/or suffixes, etc.

That’s great, but how can you possibly fit projects into your already over-packed curriculum? The biggest obstacle for every teacher always seems to be time. Here’s one approach that shouldn’t make projects a burden.

  1.  Before doing anything with students, I like to tackle the selected problem myself first.  While working on it I pay close attention to my thinking so I can do a better job of facilitating when my students engage in the work.  This also gives me a chance to decide what I want to ask for in the project and to create a rubric for assessment purposes.
  2. When ready, dedicate one class period to introducing the problem and project to the whole group.  (Note:  This is the only class time that needs to be impacted.)  Go over your guidelines and expectations and share an example of the final product. Another reason you should do the project beforehand is so that you can have an example to share, but after your first project, you can hang on to student work to share in the future.  
  3. After introducing everything, get your students working so that you can make sure everyone understands the problem and is able to get started.  At this point you will become a facilitator, moving about the room and checking in with different students and/or groups, asking thoughtful questions and responding to student questions, giving advice but not necessarily giving answers.
  4. Following this introduction and start period, your students can continue working at home or you can have project time for your class when time allows.  You can also begin to let your students return to their project whenever they complete their regular class work.  Often, we have our students who finish early turn to silent reading.  While that’s always a good option, now you can also have them turn to their project work—another good choice.

Don’t be surprised if allowing your students to work on projects builds excitement and motivates slower workers to get more done so they can join the fun!

I’d love to hear from you if you find Mr. Terupt’s tip helpful or if you have additional thoughts or questions.  You can email me at rbuyea@robbuyea.com.

Happy Reading!

You can visit Rob at robbuyea.com.  Look for tip #4 to be posted on Monday, October 5th

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