Breaking the Cycle
"I can't even begin to think about next semester yet."
I hear this often. Project teachers at this time of the year are usually very absorbed with planning their exhibitions. Issues and snags appear and they must react quickly to try and display all of the student work. They must make a lot of decisions and it's exhausting. There is not enough room to do all of this and also plan out a project for the next semester, even though a quality project takes a lot of time to plan. It is a cycle of decision fatigue
First Friday Deliverable
How to make sure your project gets moving quickly! or How to check that your project will work.
Sometimes when planning projects, it is easy to lose focus of what the class will be doing the whole time that you've set aside for this work. What will the day to day tasks be? For a project to be successful, it is necessary that students start with experience before moving on. Good projects also involve multiple drafts and revisions. The best projects will turn your classroom into a kind of cycling museum, with new stuff going up and being replaced and showing what the class is working on. All projects should end in a final deliverable or final product that the students are proud of. How can you be sure that you are doing all this and that your project is aiming for greatness? Make sure you have a First Friday Deliverable.
Design Process as Scaffolding
How do I scaffold complex tasks in an authentic and engaging way? or What is the day to day of PBL?
Earlier in my teaching I used to think that in PBL we were intentionally withholding information. It felt like we were asking students to discover concepts and skills that were well established in academics and I didn't like the dynamic that it created. My perspective has changed since then and thought I'd share.
So you are trying PBL, and you need your class to learn how to do something that is complex, like writing a comic book or building a glider. How do you scaffold all the skills that go into that task? How can you individualize the learning for each of your students? In short, you need to let them try it first, then fill in the holes over time. Here are my suggested steps for doing that. I'll give examples for a few different types of projects.
Ethic of Excellence
I received Ron Berger's book "Ethic of Excellence" about a month ago but only read it over the weekend. I found it inspiring and centering as far as focusing on what parts of teaching I like the most. I collected my favorite parts of the book into Practices and Mindsets that I want to incorporate into my work.
Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.