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!

Join the conversation! 18 Comments

  1. Refreshing to see an attempt at project-based learning despite time constraints!

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  2. Thanks so much for the encouragement! This project has definitely been a gust of fresh air in my classroom.

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  3. Oh my. This is fab. I cannot wait to use it! Our district has been pushing a project based unit, and I have been STUMPED.

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  4. So glad you found my blog, Anne. I’m only a week or so into the launch of this with my classes and I can already tell this assignment is a keeper. It’s heart-warming to see my teens so psyched to get to work. I think we’re onto something here…

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  5. I’m slightly confused with your exit ticket, or possibly the time as a whole. Are you giving them a specific amount of time per day, or simply every Friday to work on their project? With that being said, are the exit tickets after their work that day, or prior to the work they will do the next? I am loving this, but I am unsure of how you are using the time. Thank you for sharing this!

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  6. Hi Lilly,
    Thanks for checking in with me. I’m giving my classes one class period per week (it’ll be on Thursdays in my world just because that’s what works smoothly with my calendar/classroom routines) and the Exit Tickets are filled out in the last 10 min. of class each Wednesday. The Exit Ticket is designed to be a concrete tool to help students organize their ideas, set a daily goal, and remember what specific item/s they’ll need to bring to class to work on their project on Thursday/the next day. The Exit Tickets also help me to see who needs my help/guidance and serve as an accountability tool for grading. During the 20Time work sessions, I cruise around the room, answering questions and helping people over speedbumps. I also use that time to check up on my chuckleheads, making sure they brought the resources they said they would need and that they are, in fact, working toward their daily goal.

    Hope this helps clarify my process. Feel free to modify things however you need to make the project fit your kids, classroom, and community. So far, my kids and I are in LOVE with 20Time, but we’re only in the first actual work week. I’ll report back more as the weeks roll by.

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  7. Thank you for the clarification! We have been wanting to implement this in the upcoming year, and when I stumbled upon your blog it was like the light at the end of a foggy tunnel! Thank you again for sharing, and I look forward to seeing the process. Good luck to you and your students!

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  8. Thanks for sharing your idea and its path in your class. Could you elaborate on the Q and A / secret ballot process? Did the kids have “listen fors” or evaluation criteria on which to base their feedback/ ballot. Did they just give it an overall yeah or nay? Thanks so much for time and dedication-I love reading your blog and your products!

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  9. Hey Beth,
    Thanks for checking in with me. I actually gave the students three voting options on their secret ballots:
    1. “A” Full support; this seems like a great, well thought-out idea – green light
    2. “C” General support, but I have concerns/questions – yellow light
    3. “E” Do not support; this project isn’t a good fit for 20Time – red light

    I gave students copies of the pitch rubric so they would know ahead of time what I was looking for and could use those rubric categories as a guide for their own decision-making. I tallied the ballots with the Zip Grade app and any student who received 67% (more than two-thirds majority) of green and yellow lights was given permission to proceed. Kids who failed to hit that 67% mark had to meet with me to revise/rethink their project plan. It took a full period of SSR (about 40 minutes) to iron out all of the yellow and red light ticketed kids, but everyone now has a workable plan. I think this prep work will pay dividends as the spring semester/project rolls along.

    Hope this helps as you craft a plan to work in your classroom!

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  10. This is such a fabulous idea! My system has a senior exit project which requires both the public speaking and the creation of a product. This would be such a fun way to introduce the concept as freshman or sophomores. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  11. Great post! This is my 2nd year completing 20 time projects with my 10th grade English students. What an amazing difference it has made for my emerging writers in building their inquiry skills but also in building our learning community. I love your green-yellow-red light idea.

    Here’s a bit how I organize mine: http://www.jenniferward.org/2015/01/anything-really-really.html

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  12. Jen, I love your passion project approach. So cool! And those ThingLinks are really wonderful. 🙂

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  13. Hi Laura,

    First of all, I am a HUGE fan of your work. I might be addicted to you TPT store. Secondly, I love your 20Time project, and have decide to give it a try. My students began their 60-Second Project Pitches today, and I was wondering if you ran into any situations where the students approved a project that you didn’t think fit the bill?
    Thanks for all that you do. You give me something to aspire to.

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  14. Hi Merrit,
    Thanks for your continued support of my blog and shop. I’m so glad you found me! I was fortunate not to have any of these situations in this first go-round, but if this happens in the future I would wield my veto power and give the kid a “yellow light” ticket, regardless of the actual peer votes. (Btw, I didn’t give any of my students their actual vote results, just the green, yellow, or red light ticket.) Then, I would work one-on-one with that student to mold his project proposal into something more appropriate for the classroom/20Time assignment. A little manipulative? Yup. That’s what we have to do sometimes to keep everyone moving forward. Hope this helps! 🙂

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  15. WOW! I have taught 4th grade for years, and this year accepted a new job teaching 8th and 9th grade gifted ELA. I’m nervous but excited – so I am spending my summer researching how I want my classroom to look. I think this may be the project for me to tackle in the 2nd semester. Thanks so much for sharing everything!

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  16. From 4th to 8th/9th? What a change! Glad I could help lighten some of the prep load/give ideas for your new gig. Have fun with this very different change of pace. 🙂

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  17. Hi Laura,
    Just a quick one – how did you set up a quiz for ZipGrade that allowed you to see the quantities of R/Y/G for each student?
    So far I can only work out how to create quizzes with right or wrong answers, and obviously that wouldn’t tell me how many had selected each answer, if that makes sense?
    Thank you!
    Hannah

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  18. Hey Hannah,
    Great question! I set up the poll as though it were a three-question quiz, with “A” being green light, “C” being yellow light,” and “E” being the red light. Then, after I snapped all of the ZipGrade sheets, I opened the “Item Analysis” option within the quiz menu and could view/play with the data to figure which ideas won favor with the class.

    Hope this helps! 🙂

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