Last Friday was the day my eighth and ninth grade students presented their projects, and they didn’t disappoint! The projects were amazing and inspiring! They ranged from pencil art to digital art to the Bermuda triangle to other galaxy systems to knitting, learning to play the piano, choreographing a hip hop dance and designing a school iPhone app and more. The only thing I enjoyed better than the projects was the pride and enthusiasm they demonstrated as they presented them.
As they were presenting them, students were to answer four questions: What are you most proud of? What did you struggle the most with? What new or interesting information did you learn? What might be some next steps in your project?
Their responses were insightful: “I never knew how hard it was to make a good video game,” “I am going to start piano lessons in the fall,” “I am going to learn how to cast off my scarf and then I am going to wear it,” “I am going to make a wireless remote-controlled car,” “I’m really proud that I finished the cross-stitch because I’ve never had the patience for this kind of detailed work before,” “I think the Bermuda Triangle is not a myth but can be explained scientifically.”
Students, three at a time, peer-evaluated each others’ projects on the display of curiosity and then commented on the best feature of the project and wrote down any questions they had. All in all, the assessment piece was loosely designed. What I wanted most from students was for them to dive into their curiosity and get lost in their learning. For the most part, I think that was successful. There were, unfortunately, a few students whose projects were a little less than inspiring. But, I didn’t have to say anything to them as the quality of their classmates ‘ projects spoke volumes.
But, there are 3 things I will do differently next time:
1. I won’t have students present on the last day of classes. That didn’t leave them enough time to fully showcase their projects. I feel like I didn’t honor their efforts enough, and it didn’t let me provide the kind of feedback I would have liked to.
2. I’ll let them work in pairs or small groups. Originally, I told them they had to work individually, that everyone had their own unique interests. I’m not too sure what I was thinking when I said that. Of course some students would have the same interests. For instance, boys and video games. A few students did approach me to ask if they could work together and I said yes. But I needed to make that available to all students.
3. I’ll have them give updates on their progress a little more frequently. The purpose of ‘progress reports’ will be to get the students talking about their successes and challenges. I found that the students were eager to help each other when they encountered problems. I want to capitalize on that.
But mostly I wanted to capitalize on their learning that self-directed learning is valuable.
What do you think of some of their projects? What suggestions do you have to improve this project?