This post is part of an occasional series documenting my entry into project-based learning. This semester, my students will participate in a 20Time project, a 12-week experience where they choose a worthwhile project to complete (somewhat) on their own using 20 percent of our class time. You can read more about the path that led to this project here.
It was a wild and delightfully exhausting week, but all of my freshmen are heading into this three-day weekend with a solid, workable idea for their 20Time projects.
I have two insights to share from this week and more downloadable goodies (links below) as 20Time gains traction and starts to roll in my classroom.
First lesson: Things took way longer than I anticipated. And that’s okay.
I figured the 60-Second Project Pitches would take one-and-a-half periods, but they ended up taking three full class sessions. I have 32-34 students per class and each student spoke for the timed 60 seconds, but the follow-up Q&A sessions took up to five minutes each. This means I now need to carve down next week’s lesson plan/calendar and flip around some computer lab time, but it’s all good. 20Time will definitely require us (students and teacher, alike) to adjust/solve problems on the fly when our original plans don’t roll as expected – that’s one of the important lessons of the project, after all.
Second lesson: There’s a ton of value in having classmates approve/reject project ideas, rather than having me be the sole judge. At first, I wasn’t sure I was even going to include the Shark Tank-style project pitch because of the time needed to pull this off, but I’m so glad I did.
The 60-Second Project Pitch was an authentic, real-world public speaking task as well an opportunity for the rest of the students to think critically about what they were hearing. The audience members (I referred to them as “guppies” instead of “sharks”) were kind, thoughtful, and thorough in their questioning. I posed some questions, too, but most of the queries came from classmates, and they covered every concern that popped into my mind as I was listening to each pitch. Bravo, critical thinkers!
Very quickly, poorly conceived projects unraveled under guppy questioning and several students approached me later with revised plans, knowing that they hadn’t done a good enough job thinking through the elements of their project. Some ideas were refined, others scrapped.
Using a secret ballot process and the fabulous ZipGrade scoring app (yes, I’m now a fan; full review to come in a future post), I was able to quickly see Thursday night which projects pleased the audience and which failed to connect.
At the beginning of class on Friday, I handed out students’ completed speech rubrics (a 30-point assignment) and also the peer/guppy voting feedback in the form of a green/yellow/red light slip. Students with green-lighted projects were told to go forth and conquer, while I individually met with the yellow and red light folks during Friday’s quiet S.S.R. reading time to help them iron out the wrinkles in their plans.
Kids who received a red light were given a List of 30 Project Ideas to help them find a more workable project and then we conferenced individually as each student made his/her choice. I intentionally didn’t share this idea sheet with students (or post it on my blog – Hey there, sixth period) until after the 60-second pitches were done because I didn’t want kids to choose a project based on what they thought I wanted them to choose. The whole point is to find a something that speaks to their interests, not to try to game the system or please me.
It might also be helpful to know that about 70 percent of my students received a green light, 20 percent were given a yellow light, and 10 percent were red-lighted. As a result, I individually conferenced with 9-10 students per class (all of those yellow and red light folks) during S.S.R. on Friday. I was moving and definitely needed some hammock time when I got home Friday afternoon. I’m still bone-tired – but it’s a good tired because I know the stage has been successfully set for this week’s first in-class work session.
Okay, now for the goodies, one of which was already linked above:
Green/Yellow/Red Light peer feedback results slip
List of 30 Project Ideas
Exit Tickets for 12 weeks of class-time work sessions. I’m going to use these toward the end of class the day before each work session to help students plan the following day’s activities and give me a quick way to monitor progress/see who needs the most help. (Note: The only change on each sheet is the “Awesome!” emoticon. I’m thinking a fresh chuckle each week will help keep the Exit Tickets from feeling too stale as the project rolls along.)
Anyone else out there taking on a similar project? I’ve found a wealth of inspiration here, but I’d also love to hear from blog readers about how they’ve run the show in their classes.
Teach on, everyone!