This year I am doing a unique project based learning project in my classroom. I believe I talked about it here. It is called the 20% project. It is based on the principle that maybe not everything we teach in the classroom should be geared toward a set of standards. You assign this project and students determine their learning. The learning that takes place is self learning.
You may ask how do you get away with this in a rigorous early college environment. I will tell you that it still ties to my curriculum. The project is a year long and throughout the process the students are forced to critically think about their learning via journals, speeches and presentations of this project.
The first is a proposal where they propose to me why I should allow them to do this project. I am essentially giving up precious class time to allow them this time, so their argument must be convincing.
Then the project moves into carry out phase. 20% days happen in my classroom at least 1 every two weeks. This allows the students to work on their project in my class as well as the other facets of the project. The journaling process is intense. Students must constantly be in a state of reflection about their learning.
The unique thing that happened this year is the idea of failure and commitment continually came up. Students realized they like being told by teachers what exactly to do. They struggled with the idea of student led curriculum. I regularly saw failure and commitment issues at the beginning. They are required a thorough journal every single 20% day and some days they were required to tie their journals back to an implementation plan that was part of their original proposal.
The implementation plan kept them accountable to themselves and to me. But it also forced them to see the bigger picture of the project and hopefully the reality of it. Keep in mind this project is situated into a student publications class and audience is a big part of that. Each student knows that the end goal of this project is two things. They are required to deliver a TED style talk to an audience outside of our usual classroom and they are to have a pitch poster (think movie poster) that is meant to sway someone into hearing their speech.
Well Wednesday is it. It is our big Ted Style talk day. We have invited people from the community, my superiors and other classes to see their talks. It is a gigantic class (41), so I cannot have each of them go. I had to pick a handful for this first day. It was so hard to pick just a few because they all did amazing. And I am not just saying that.
The learning that took place during this project is real life learning. I cannot tell you how many times in my class I have heard, "When will I ever really use this?" And this project takes that out. What they learn from this is about life. How it works and how we are required to push ourselves if we want to keep learning.
It is being committed. It is being accountable. It is higher order thinking. It is setting goals and meeting them. If they aren't being reflective of why and how then they are not doing it correctly. It is articulating your learning. It is articulating it to people outside of your comfort zone. It is articulating why it has value in our classroom. They are my best advocate for my curriculum.
If this is something you are thinking about doing it can be placed into any curriculum or subject quite nicely. Perimeters are set by the teacher and how it is carried out is set by the teacher. If anyone is interested you can email me for my actual physical documents and arrange them to make them work for you.
I will update with how it goes and with pictures of course. (GAH, Mrs. E….EDIT!)