Each spring, I launch a project-based learning experience that encourages students to pursue a project of personal interest. Folks have lots of different ways of managing this (search Genius Hour, 20 Percent Project, or Kevin Brookhouser to learn more), and here are the rules for my version:
1. The project must be something the student genuinely cares about.
2. The kid has to actually make something. It’s not enough to just research the whole time.
3. It must be school-appropriate. Duh.
4. It must have elements I can tie back to something in the ELA Common Core State Standards.
In previous years, students have pursued a wide variety of projects, from launching YouTube channels (like this one – hey, Sasha) to writing and designing a 12-page fashion magazine to building a remote control truck and then using that truck in a Hollywood-style action video trailer. For a list of 50 unique projects my students have completed, click here. For a list of 30 generic 20Time project ideas to help kids who struggle to find a project, click here. Note: I share these lists with kids only after they’ve earned a yellow or red light during the Guppy Tank/60-second project proposal assignment. It’s better, I’ve learned, to not guide their project selection too much at the start; I want kids to choose something that’s meaningful to them, not something they think will make me happy. More details about the Guppy Tank and free handouts to help run the entire 20Time project are here.
One of my favorite parts of 20Time is that the teacher also pursues a passion project, both to serve as a model for students and to force ourselves to grow. There’s nothing like telling your plans to a roomful of teenagers (or a blog audience of teacher friends) to ensure accountability. Over the years, I’ve learned to play the ukulele, filmed a 10-part YouTube video series on classroom management, gained enough upper-body strength to do a chin-up, and built a complete curriculum for English 9-10. Whew.
That brings us to 20Time2019, the year I will finally figure out…insert drumroll…creative writing. More about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it:
In a nutshell, my goal is to create an original work of fiction or maybe narrative non-fiction/memoir that I will – gulp! – share on this blog. Along the way, I’ll re-read Stephen King’s On Writing, take a writing class for adults (yup, the teacher is becoming the student), and organize a writing group with three friends from work that will meet six times over the next 12 weeks. All of this will be accomplished by April 20, when I will report back the results.
Are you using 20Time or something similar with your students this year? If yes, please leave your teacher project plan below as inspiration for others. If no, what’s stopping you from bring this to your classroom? Leave a reply!