If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know the spring semester around here means 20Time, a passion project where students spend 20% of class time for 12 weeks working on an individual plan approved by their peers. (A whole bunch of free materials, including handouts, to explain the project can be found here.)

One of the cornerstones of the program is that the teacher also completes a 20Time project, serving as the ultimate model for our students. It’s my fourth year using the project and this time around I made a video to announce the plan:

Yes, it’s a beast.
Yes, I’m excited to finally slay it.
And, yes, I WILL hit that April 6 deadline. No. Matter. What.

(Click here to grab a set of the free materials I mentioned in the video.)

How about you? Have you brought 20Time to your classroom yet? If no, what’s holding you back? If yes, what’s your spring project? Let me know in the “Leave a Reply” box below. Teach on, everyone!

Join the conversation! 12 Comments

  1. Hi Laura! Just entering semester #5 with 20Time! I’ve met with varying success in my own 20Time projects over the last few years, and I’ve learned that to actually accomplish it, I must be, well…passionate about my passion project! I have also recognized that my life being a shade of crazy can be a factor- 2 kids, a husband, a house, a cat, a dog, 100 students, and on and on. So my project this year is to practice all kinds of relaxation techniques, from mediation to coloring, yoga to music therapy, and see what works! Thank you for all the inspiration!


  2. Ooo, Courtney…you’re making me envious. 20Time2019, I think I already have a plan. Courtney’s plan! 😀


  3. Way to go, Laura!

    That is definitely some beast!!! I wish you the best of luck and I just know that you’ll make that deadline! I’ll be cheering you on on the sidelines! Woo-hoo!!!

    Take care of your little beast, George, as well! What a cutie!

    Will be looking forward to seeing the results! ❤


  4. Thanks so much, Carolyn! You’ve also made me think that perhaps I should include a 12-week George update, too, when I finish the curriculum project. I’m sure he’ll be much more dog-sized by then. 🙂


  5. This is my 3rd year doing a Passion Project. I actually planned and implemented it for the same reason as you. (Of course, I found your materials AFTER it was over…..) . My students would stare at me, waiting to take notes on whatever I said, and worrying about how to spit those words back at me on a test. It was frustrating me. I gave my kids an interest inventory, all about them, and they struggled with it so much! Anyway, that year, my thought was to learn a new instrument. I went to the music department, and they gave me a bass clarinet and the music for the musical that was in 6 weeks. This year, my plan is to learn how to make “fancy” materials for my class. My assignment sheets are all so boring, but I’ve never taken the time to learn how to make them eye-catching. Your materials have inspired me to try. Thanks for the inspiration!


  6. Glad I can serve as some sort of inspiration, Sunnie. That school musical performance must’ve been awesome! It’s funny, but my highest academic achievers are usually the ones who struggle the most at first with this project. It’s as if they’ve been trained to follow directions but can’t really carve their own path. My kids who earn C’s in our regular class work tend to produce some of the greatest projects. Go figure. Have fun with your new design project! 🙂


  7. I’ve been using your 20Time project in my classroom with my 7th Grade English students. It’s been a big success!! My students have learned so much on their own and have written blog posts documenting their learning. Thank you so very much for sharing the 20 Time materials on your website. I went looking for the motivational speaker that you referenced because the message seemed familiar. I believe you were listening to Les Brown’s “Live Full, Die Empty” presentation. Just putting it here in case others are interested in listening to it.


  8. YES, Therease, you found him!!! I’m so happy right now! Les Brown, referencing the teachings of Dr. Howard Thurman, totally grabbed me with that image of my unrealized ideas glaring at me with “large angry eyes” on my deathbed. If anyone needs to ignite an internal fire, give this a listen (01:39-04:15 is the part I can’t let go of):

    Also, I’m thrilled that your 7th graders are enjoying their 20Time experience. I’ve often wondered if the program works as well with the middle grades. Good to hear this feedback. Let’s both have a great 20Time2018!

    Your fan,


  9. I’ve wanted to implement this project for several years now, and finally sat down this summer and reorganized my schedule so that it would fit into my Freshmen English class. My students and I are in the 3rd week of our FIRST 20Time, and I have a few questions. With students who seem to be taking the project too lightly or just cannot seem to get the wheels turning, do you let them sink or swim, or do you give more guidance? How much is too much “interference”? I’m having difficultly finding the balance. Additionally, aside from the planning tickets, do you use any mid-project progress measure?

    Many of my students have embraced the project (and I’m having a BLAST learning to crochet…to my husband’s amazement and amusement), but I still have some stragglers “treading water” each Friday? Is this normal?


  10. Hey Andrea,
    Congratulations on taking the plunge! The same thing happens to me with every round of 20Time, too. There’s always a few who flounder or need more of my attention during our work sessions than others. During our sessions, I’m constantly walking around the room, stopping to have a chat/look over shoulders/brainstorm ways to work around road blocks.

    Definitely don’t let the early strugglers sink/just sit there and accomplish nothing. Some of my chuckleheads need a l-o-t of monitoring and hand-holding for the first half of the project until they get some traction. Totally normal. Also, the thing about 20Time is that, just like all things we do in class, it’s not going to be the perfect project for every kid. Some will thrive and others will sputter – it sort of mirrors real-life in that way.

    My recommendation is to just use your best judgment. You know your kids pretty well by now and I’m guessing you know which kids need more of your time and more of your help with direction than others. Hope this helps! And congratulations on your new crocheting skills, by the way. I’ll bet that’s a great mental escape after a week with our teens. 🙂


  11. Laura, I really want to do this with my Junior & Senior Lit & Comp class, but not sure about the 12 weeks. We are in the middle of a novel right now. How do I start it in the middle of the novel? How much introduction time do I need? How do I introduce it to my students? Any suggestions? I have not gone back and read your blogs; I have downloaded the information from Teacher’s Pay Teachers and read through it. Help; if we are going to do it I need to start it now…


  12. Hey, Shannon! You can start anytime, really. Just take a half day off from the novel to intro. the project and explain everything. Then, find a natural pausing spot in the novel for your Guppy Tanks presentations.

    One of my years, I had to shorten the work sessions to just nine instead of 12 and everything still worked. You will need some start-up time, though, to explain the project and have students present the 90-second Guppy Tank speeches/peer voting, so you’ll need to carve out a few early-February days, for sure. Depending on your class sizes, you might need a total of three-four class days (intro + presentations) to get the ball rolling.

    Also, you’ll find that you’ll need to slim down your spring curriculum to make everything fit. I used to teach the full Odyssey to my freshmen, but I had to make some cuts and ended up slicing about half of the Odyssey chapters to make room for 20Time. The cuts were painful to me at the time, but SO WORTH IT in the end.

    Hope you find a way to make this work in your classroom. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever brought to my classroom. 🙂


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