Saturday, March 9, 2013

Their subject, their project...

    We have completed another quarter.  It seemed like the longest one of the year.  To help spur some excitement and energy into my students, I gave them an open ended project.  The only requirements were a well researched subject, presentation of knowledge gained, and project.  Oh, I nixed posters as an option for the project.  That seems to be the go to and I wanted them to think outside that box. 
   Students had computer time to research, morning work time, and a few other opportunities scattered here and there to accomplish this goal in a three week period.  The excitement and enthusiasm flourished.  Step one: brainstorm your own ideas through webbing.  Some took the bull by the horns and tackled this feat.  Others kept asking me to give them ideas or the topic.  Those in the middle had an idea or two but honestly had a hard time going beyond.  This part of the "assignment" was eye opening.  Most students by 5th grade cannot decide for themselves what they wanted to learn.  I also noticed it was those who have more experiences in life who did well on this step.  They had things that interested them beyond the couch and television. 
   When everyone had at least one idea, I asked them to ask themselves questions. What do I want to know?  Why is this person, place, or thing interesting to me?  What part do I want to look into?  They jotted down some questions.  Then the next day was time at the computer lab.  The class was buzzing!  They could not wait to learn something of self-interest.  Some again, had issues with the freedom of the project.  Wanted me to walk them through it.  I kept encouraging them to find some information about their subject and see where it took them. 
   The most interesting conversation was with a girl who wanted to know how to make gum.  She called me over and expressed that she found how to make it but would that be enough.  I simply told her it was her project.  She then told me about some of the other parts of the article.  It was clear that knowing how it was made was not enough for her.  She wanted to know about the different types, history, and how it was made.  Her project which was an interview she wrote between a reporter and "Mrs. Gum."  The gum have us her history, make up and different types.  It was excellent! Another student also chose how gum is made, but took on the creation of gum for the classroom.  She polled the students on which flavor (mint or fruit) they liked. Talked about how to find the ingredients and trials and tribulations along the path. Most students researched an entertainer of some sort.  All the projects turned out well done.  If I had thought I would be blogging this, I would have taken pictures.  NOTE TO SELF...take pictures of everything!
   This last quarter, we are going to embark on another self-directed project.  This time I want them to focus on a topic and writing down questions that lead them to narrowing the scope down.  The emphasis on the process of questioning and narrowing the subject will be the objective.  Still unsure how to monitor it.  Stay tuned...maybe this time, I will remember to take pictures!