30+ Projects Your Students Will Love.

30+ Projects Your Students Will Love.

 

A good project is engaging, relevant, and fun for students to share their learning.

Projects are an excellent way for students to share their learning with others.

If you are using an inquiry approach embedding choice is essential into this final project is vital.

  • Let them choose individually
  • Let them decide as a group
  • Give them a choice of the content and scope of their project.

The more you involve them and make it their own idea the more engagement you will receive.

But sometimes we want an idea of different types of projects that our students can do to share their learning.

Here are the tips five different types of projects that students can try to share their learning at the end of their inquiry.

Make Something

So many things we teach lends itself to getting students to make something. Adding in opportunities for hands-on learning is a great way to add some much-needed differentiation to your classroom.

  • Dioramas: These are oldies but goodies. Each year I always have some students choose this one. Dioramas are especially useful for creating habitats or creating a historical scene like in our First Nations and explorers unit, or ancient civilizations.
  • Prototypes/models: Any engineering unit leads well into creating models or prototypes to show how something works. In my classroom we make bridges, and buildings out of popsicle sticks and LEGO machines to show pulleys and gears.
  • Board Games: These are great to review concepts. Student generates questions can give you a great insight into their thinking.
  • Flag or Coat of Arms: History is full of historical figures. So looking at who they are and generating symbols and works that represent their personality or contribution to the history being studied can be a valuable way for students to apply what they have learned.
  • Map/ Treasure Hunt: for anything that relies on a geographic understanding such as land regions or location of different civilizations a map or treasure hunt is an excellent tool for students to show what they know.
  • Vocabulary Quilt: this is a great activity when what students are learning about is full of new vocabulary words that are key to their understanding of the topic. For topics such as rocks and minerals, students have plenty of critical vocabulary they can draw from to make a quilt that shows their learning.
  • Invention: sometimes in science students need to solve problems. With activities such as in the light and sound unit, students can get their creative juices flowing to invent a solution to an everyday problem

Demonstrate It

Sometimes students need just to explain it.

  • Experiments: This is a great way to show you that they learned something.  Think of this as a science fair project.  Students can demonstrate what they learned by showing you how something works. 
  • Drama: Telling a story or explaining a concept using drama is a great way to teach a difficult concept creatively.
  • Role Play: Historical events can be represented by students taking on their persona and speaking using their voice.  Although this doesn’t work for some historical events and cultural sensitivity needs to be considered.  Using this with ancient civilizations or in science with concepts like animals, habitats, and rocks and minerals work well to speak about something from the perspective of the object.
  • Debate: teaching government this is a crucial strategy that can be used to look at two different sides of an issue.  I can use this to discuss decision making, the charter of rights and freedoms and various pros and cons of political parties.
  • Conference: Sometimes the most valuable way to gather data with students is to conference with them.  It is as simple as them telling you what they know.  You can structure it like an interview or even a conversation.

Teach Others

Presentations / Posters: there may be another go to the final project. One that others will quickly volunteer to complete. It also might be the big one that students get their parents to do with them.

I still love this but try to use more digital tools instead of paper and pencil.

  • Show and Share: allow students to share what they have learned in a show and tell format. Each student uses an artefact that tells them a story and allows them to talk about how the object represents their learning. Objects can be collected, citrates and displayed as a classroom museum. 
  • Advertisements: Need to add some media literacy to your projects then this one is a good one to use.
  • Assembly: I have only done this with one group, but it was pretty convincing. Students used other ideas from this list and combined them to create an assembly for our school to share with them how to conserve energy. This assembly was a tremendous student-generated experience that allowed them to share their ideas with a broad audience.
  • Tour Guide: Imagine that students had to walk someone through a concept or environment.  Students can tour others through a historical event or environment.  A tour guide would work well for topics such as ancient civilizations, a story or novel study, or science topics like light, sound, human body or habitats.
  • News Report: With a lot of topics asking for students to report on and provide their opinion with a news report is a great way to share their ideas.  For any issues that ask them to report on specific events, students can present this information in a news report format.
  • Podcast/ Radio: Similarly to a news report students can use an interview format to record a podcast or radio show to explain different concepts like issues in government, historical leaders, or science concepts.

Digital

Here’s were taking a risk as a teacher has a big one.  Some teachers are not digital natives.  Our students may be much handier and knowledgeable about how to use the digital tools at their fingerprint tips to share what they have learned.

For teachers who may not have the technical skill or familiarity of digital platforms, allowing students to explore this avenue for the final project is a good idea.  Although it is often extraordinarily intimidating and may or may lead to teachers avoiding this as an option for students to explore, I would highly recommend you throw caution to the wind and allow students to teach you something.

Digital tools can be a powerful way for students to share their learning.

  • Website: Many free platforms will enable students to create a website or blog. And there are also just as many tutorials that are designed to help students with how this can be done. Students can write and create a site on blogger or Weebly pretty easily that can act as a platform for them to show their knowledge
  • Video: This is always my go too digital project. It allows students to show what they know to explain their thinking quickly and easily. It is an easy way to grab a presentation but in a way that doesn’t eat a tremendous amount of class time.
  • Kahoot / Quiz: why not take your quiz digital. Use google forms or kahoot and get students to share what they know by making a digital quiz.
  • Social Media Profile: like a biography but modernized. Students can create a Facebook profile, an Instagram feed or twitter feed that represents a person or concept. If we think of a social media feed as capturing a moment in our lives in a curated way, then a social media feed will fit into many history, science, or language projects.
  • Walking Tour Plan: what to know what a place looks like but cannot go. This is a great time to use the tech at our fingers to explore more areas through the use of google classroom. When I worked as an ESL teacher google street view was my best friend as we explored our community and the vocabulary around them through our virtual walking tours around our neighbourhood.
  • Explainer Video: Ever have a concept that can be explained using a how-to video. These explainer videos are an excellent way for students to teach and explain different ideas to others. Math and science are great subjects to explore these concepts as students can film themselves completing their work and telling how it was done and why.
  • Interview: using tech to record an interview with each other of others about their crucial knowledge. They can share what they have learned by interviewing and videoing a partner to show what they know about any and every subject and topic area.

Application / Integration

For these types of projects why not try integrating multiple subjects into one project.

In this way, we can work smarter not harder.

I get multiple forms of assessment with one project.

  • Write a story: sometimes the things we learned in science and history follow the pattern of a story with events happening with a beginning middle and end. Students can take events from history and retell them in the form of a story with vital historical people as main characters of the event.  They can embed as many facts and details as they can into their work.  Additionally in science students can tell a story to explain how things work telling the story of how the blood travels through the human body is one exciting way that I’ve had students use this form of a project to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Art: for many of our students their strengths lie in the artistic expression.  Open-ended products that allow students to demonstrate their learning through their creativity creates new avenues that are not traditionally explored. Final projects  in the art also mean that you can add more substance to your art time that moves up beyond free time for students
  • Biography: there many times in history or sure people play pickle rolls, and her understanding of historical events having students apply what they have learned about these individuals by writing a biography integrates many writing expectations and social studies lessons in an authentic way.
  • Play: sometimes we have very imagined of students in our class who are continually using their free Playtime engaged and imaginative play capture the strength and students by allowing them to explore scientific principles and historical events through dramatization.
  • Dance: although I put this as an option for many of my students I always wonder if anyone will try it but almost every time at least once a year a student will write a song a wrap and put it to dance to present the information they’ve learned in math science or social studies. The thing with surprises me the most each time it happens is it it’s not for the students I would expect to choose dance as a platform for the final project.

These are just some of the many projects your students can choose.

Instead of choosing what your students complete why not open it up to them to decide how they would like to show their learning.

Or if that is just a bit too much freedom choose one idea from each section above and present it as an option.

5 Reasons Why I Am Not A Perfect Teacher and Why That Is Okay

5 Reasons Why I Am Not A Perfect Teacher and Why That Is Okay

Why are you here?

Why are you reading this blog?

I’m not a perfect teacher…I try… but I am far from perfect.

You probably came here because you were looking for ideas perhaps on teaching a split grade or using Inquiry or for many other reasons.

Sometimes I hear it in my comments section, or through private messages. Your thanks and appreciation you have for throwing my ideas out there. Giving you a place to turn when you are struggling. I am forever grateful for this blog and the ability to reach so many teachers.

But here’s the thing

I’m not a perfect teacher.

I have faults and things don’t always work out on paper. I started this blog as an outlet because there were not enough voices that represented me. I started on Tpt because people would ask for what would talk about on here. It helped to justify the hours I spent making my own things when the resources I was given lacked what I needed.

I have bad days. You know the days where another job looks really appealing.

I have days where I am so thankful there is a bottle of wine and a supportive hubby to hear me complain.

I want you to know I’m not perfect. And I struggle to get through the day.

So if you are too …know you are not alone.

Here are the five reasons why I’m less than perfect and why that’s okay.

I can’t spell

I am a horrible speller. Just ask anyone who edits my TPT products. I rush through it and second guess myself so many times.

I am so self conscious about making mistakes in my classroom with spelling because I am afraid of judgement.

“Oh my gawd she is a teacher and she cannot spell that word”

Yep I can’t but you know what.

I have gotten really good at compensating.

I use technology to help me. I depend on typed communication over hand written. I remake all of my anchor charts.

And with my students if I make a mistake I am honest with this imperfection and model for them how to look it up.

Another true confession I love capital letters too and put them everywhere don’t judge me.

I am forgetful

Sometimes I wish I was an elephant but sometimes I’m more like a goldfish.

I don’t always remember what day it is or that something is coming up. I will often forget to do my attendance.

It drives my hubby crazy.

I need to be better planned. It’s something I’m working on.

But until then I can just embrace the quotes “fake it until you make it” and “keep calm and pretend it’s on the lesson plan”

I set timers to remind me of things and write down things on a calendar when I remember to.

This may also be why I dislike papers. I can never remember where anything is. The most used feature on my computer is the search bar. I must live in the right era. Google is my friend, thank you to all the software engineers out there who have dedicated their life to making search find all the things effectively.

That reminds me I have a kids dentist appointment on Wednesday.

I don’t do details

If it were up to me my students probably would never leave the classroom to go on trips. The logistics of planning these types of details are just not my strength.

I am much better at ideas and planning activities than I am at filling out the forms and arranging the details.

In the classroom this sometimes means that I make many mistakes in terms of how something might work out. There is often a lot of trial and error here and I figure out what is going to work or not. This leads to some great outcomes and some not so great ones.

I fail on a regular basis.

But it’s okay. I am very fortunate that I work with an amazing group of teachers who just happen to be great at this. I found my people and we work together and focus on our strengths.

This way my students can go on trips and do some things I have the ideas for but perhaps not the follow through.

But I need all the details

For this reason I struggled with science and math as a high school student.

When learning new concepts I need to know everything about what I am learning. I don’t assume very well. Without the full and complete picture of how and why something works I struggle to accept the new concept.

Sometimes that means that with new strategies or concepts. I need to learn all about it before I try it.

This can hinder me from just doing something new. I will often cast a lot of doubt.

This impacted me in math as a student. I never knew why the algorithms work or how to skip steps. It just wasn’t clear. I was lucky to have two amazing math teachers who recognized this and worked with me to get me through math.

As a teacher this memory never left me and I use this to help me make sure that I recognize that some students need more.

So, I have had to learn to ask lots of questions and seek my own answers.

In the long run once I learn a concept I KNOW it and will share it with others. But getting there is a struggle.

I am easily distracted

I am distracted and often get lost doing something that is not always the most efficient.

I could fill out that PD organizer that I was given but instead I will remake it with some fancy fonts and borders.

I get distracted if all of the things I use don’t match. I will redo things over and over when I don’t have to.

In my classroom we can easily get sidetracked.

I may have a plan to get all the things done and follow my schedule but that doesn’t always happen.

But I have to give myself a break and realize that I don’t always have to get to everything all the time.

Having a timer on my watch and seeing emails as they come in helps me to not get too distracted but it. I see the notification and the subject but not the email. This means I can ignore non urgent emails and I don’t get stuck in the trap of my inbox.

Let’s be fair

We have so much to do in a day. We cannot get it all done all of the time.

I am distracted but is this always a bad thing?

Maybe being more flexible is okay

So I’m not perfect

But it’s okay the only one who perhaps expects that is me.

When I mess up chances are I am the only one who knows it

Or maybe not…but if I own it and ask for help then dealing with these imperfections gets easier. I can rely on the strengths of others and help them out.

Part of being a community means to help each other out.

I guess acceptance of my perfect imperfections is a great feelings. I own my faults they make me who I am and I can still be a good teacher despot of them.

What things do you do to compensate for areas where you are not perfect?

Tell me in the comments or add your ideas over on Facebook.

How To Make Your Students Beg For More Writing Time

How To Make Your Students Beg For More Writing Time

When I first started teaching the focus was on getting students to read and get better at math.  For me, that was what my focus was on.

I didn’t really have a ‘writing program’ or really any structure to get my students writing and writing consistently.

Then there was this defining moment when I had my class list for the next year and I was talking with my teaching partner whose students I would be getting for the next year.  We looked at my class list, saw that it was 2/3 boys and she began to tell me how much the boys from her room ‘hated’ writing and refused to do it.

This is a thread that I hear over and over….’my students hate writing’….’how to I get them to care about what they write’.

Fast forward to today in my room writing is the favourite time for the majority of my students.  In fact, one group made me switch my workshop rotations because they had one day in the cycle where they didn’t have writing and this just didn’t sit well with them.

Now writing looks like

  • highly engaged students who beg to write
  • early finishers immediately start working on writing
  • we think of ourselves as writers
  • we love writing and seeing our growth as writers

So how did I get there?????

Honestly, I don’t know how I started or where I got the idea.  I know it was from somewhere and I wish I could remember so they could get the credit.

Writing in my room has three components

  1. We study good writing through reading
  2. We write every day on things we are interested in
  3. We focus on the grammar and mechanics through editing and revising mentor texts, our own work and the work of our peers.

This is what I don’t have as part of my writing program…

  1. I, as the teacher, do not choose what they write.  This includes topic, theme, genre, form, or style.
  2. Everything we write is not worthy of being published
  3. We don’t do spelling and grammar out of context.  No whole group spelling tests, worksheets, textbook programs etc.
  4. Everyone is not doing the same thing at the same time.
  5. We focus on the craft of writing and the writing process not on replicating a specific genre of writing.

 

How To Motivate Reluctant Writers

Students hate writing when they are told what to write.  Writing is a form of expression and people write better when they are passionate about the topic that they are writing about.

Nothing sucks the life out of this passion than being told what you need to write and how you need to write it.

Many of my students love writing about video games, or non-fiction research reports on random things in their world.

I have zero interest in any of these things … but for them, it is there everything.

They will write and be excited about doing it!

and

It won’t be good… at all!

In fact, the first time these reluctant writers write about something they love it is bad writing….really bad writing.

But they are excited about it and I am happy for them because the first step is just getting them to write their ideas on paper and like doing it.

From there we make goals and get them to write more, and more, and more.

We convince them that what they thought about writing was wrong and that they actually have a great voice and ideas when they are writing.

Little by little we encourage them to write more and more improving their skills in baby steps.

Get Out Of Their Way

Sometimes as teachers we make things more complicated then they need to be.

We make all of the rules and plan every little detail so that we can cover a list of things we are mandated to cover.  Then we stress that we didn’t get it covered because that thing we thought would take two weeks really took four because our students didn’t get it.

Then we blame our students for being a ‘weak group’ or ‘challenging’

Is it them? or is it us? or a little of both?

More autonomy leads to more engagement

Think about yourself would you rather have a principal tell you what to teach when to teach it, and how to teach it.

Or would you rather a principal give you the autonomy to choose these things.

(I know easy answer….autonomy)

Well, your students want this too.

You are their boss…but you don’t have to be a micro-manager.

Giving them some freedom, and choice will help them to buy in.

Get It All Covered

First, when I fully embraced using a cyclical writing program that harnessed student voice and choice to engage students in writing this was my biggest worry.

“How do I make sure I cover everything in the curriculum”

Well at the end of the year, for the very first time.  I can confidently say I actually had evidence of everything covered.

  1. Students choose what they write
    • They start with choosing either fiction or non-fiction
    • They write
    • We conference
  2. Students get bored of writing the same thing all the time so they naturally seek different forms and genres.
    • Studying good writing through mentor texts helps students to learn about and try new genres of writing that interest them.
    • Peer editing and revising helps students to see how others write
    • Partner writing helps to try new things
    • Student-teacher conferences help students to focus on creating specific goals for each individual student.

 

Building Communication Skills with your Students

Building Communication Skills with your Students

Have you ever had a chatty class?

Umm yeah!! who doesn’t

So I assume that because I have a chatty class that they we are going to have these great discussions when we sit down to learn.

And then……nothing

Nada, zip, zilch

There is no talking when I ask a question. These kids who wouldn’t be quiet and took forever to get focused because they were so chatty are now all staring at me with blank faces….saying nothing.

Here is what I realizedNeed help engaging your students in discussion? Click through to learn how you can build communication with your students!

Working Memory Problems

-I have had students in my class with working memory difficulty. These kids struggle with on demand tasks like academic conversations on the fly. These kids need supports to help them participate in class. Giving them thinking time and the ability to write things down is important. Scaffold the discussion with a prompt page or simply let them take some notes during the conversation.

The Awkward Pause

So people are naturally inclined to fill in silence, my students were doing this to me. If they waited I would just keep talking. I would inevitably answer my own question and they would just get to passively take a break while I just gave them all the answers.

Boy was I talking too much

So it was time to flip the script and sit and wait give them the awkward pause and see if they took the cue to start talking.

Sure enough some of them did. It worked!!

Sound easy? It totally wasn’t it was the hardest thing ever. As my voice was screaming “let me out” but I had to keep that cage door shut!!! 😳

So slowly but surely a few of them started to talk. Now I just needed more of them talking instead of just a few.

Engaging the Sidelines

Normally it is a few students in the class that do the majority of the talking.

This was something I wanted to improve my goal was to have rich discussions with everyone in my class not just a select few.

So I could have done the old method of just calling out random kids off my class list. But….that is terrifying for many kids so I rarely do it.

Planned sharing… as my students would work on their differentiated math pages I would walk around the room occasionally and see students who were doing well or better yet a student that had struggled previously and had just had a breakthrough. I would ask if they would be willing to share their learning. We would look at their failure and they would then share their breakthrough.

Adding their voice in a strategic way increased their confidence in talking in front of the group. They could share their learning from their place on the carpet.

Student to Student

In many classrooms if you map the conversation patterns it would look like a bouncing ball between you and a student. If I really wanted a student centered classroom then I needed to get out of the center of the conversation. So I explicitly talked to students about how to talk to one another. We talked about how to ask questions of each other, how to build on to conversations and how to disagree with respect, Use the acronym IDEAS to help your students learn how to add to a class conversationI – inquire: ask questions of the speaker to build on the discussionD- Disagree: part of having a conversation is hearing different view points. Teach students to disagree respectfully with each other. E- Expand: get students to extend the conversation by digging deeper and asking why. Go bigger or deeper with these questions. A- Agree and Add On: show your support and add on by offering additional evidence S- Summarize and Clarify: sometimes saying it in a different way to clarify a point is an important part of conversations Brainstorm different sentence stems and slowly introduce and model these for students.

Listening for Speaking

If you have ever had an argument with someone….like maybe your spouse. You will know that sometimes you listen to understand their point and other times you are just waiting for your next chance to jump in and say something. So instead of listening you are planning what you are going to say next. Students quickly learn who to listen to and often it is not each other. So this is an area that we should try to change. Because it is important that students not only listen to us, their teacher but they should also listen to each other Using the accountable talk IDEAS strategy mentioned above is one way to increase listening since they have to listen in order to understand. Another is to explicitly teach them what good listening looks like. Eyes on the speaker, body still, mouth closed, hands free. So get them talking byIdentifying and gaps is memoryUsing the awkward pauseEngaging the sidelinesIncreasing student to student conversations.

Student Writing Survey Tutorial

Student Writing Survey Tutorial

Conferencing with students in writing? Watch this student writing survey tutorial to use Google Forms to track writing progress and student goals!If you are conferencing with your students in writing then you need an easy way to track this data.  I use google forms with students to help me track their writing progress and track data.  Students use this as a framework for self-assessment of their writing and making goals to move their skills forward.

Below is a tutorial for you to see how this survey works

Ignite Student’s Passion for Writing!!

Ignite Student’s Passion for Writing!!

Encourage student writing in your class and ignite their passion for writing! Click through to learn how to create a class that loves to write.

Writing is a challenge to teach.  It is more than simply just teaching students how to write.  There is an underlying challenge that can predict a student’s success and this is often dependent on the messaging that students tell themselves about their ability to write.  A student’s attitude towards their skills as a writer are very important to ensure their success in their ability to write.  Writing was the last subject that I taught as a teacher where I felt like I was doing a great job at getting students to write.  Many times I felt that my writing program was sucking the fun out of writing and making the task feel so foreign and unrelatable to the real world of writing.  This change coincided with my also beginning this blog.  Through blogging, I felt that I reconnected to my enjoyment of writing that perhaps had been sucked out of me.  Understanding that sometimes just the act of getting your ideas out of your head and on ‘paper’ is a great feeling.  I needed a way to translate that into my own teaching.  Writing needed to be connected, the act of writing needed to be just as important as the conventions and style elements of writing.  Student engagement needed to increase and a fire and passion for writing needed to be ignited within my students.  Even with the most reluctant writers.

This need for a change also aligned with using inquiry in science and social studies.  The power of student conferences, guided instruction and increasing a student’s voice and choice in the classroom were powerful tools to get students hooked.
Encourage student writing in your class and ignite their passion for writing! Click through to learn how to create a class that loves to write.
I changed my approach to how I teach writing and now use a cyclical/spiraling method of teaching writing instruction which is tied very closely to reading instruction as well.  Allowing students the ability to choose what they want to write about, how they want to write it and when has changed by teaching of writing and completely transformed the level of engagement and excitement in writing within my classroom.  The progress I see with students in their ability to write is amazing.

However it is more than just giving them less structure and rules to follow in their writing.  This would lead to chaos and triple your work load as you had each student doing whatever they want. There are systems and guides and a great deal of structure that goes into preparing your students to write in this manner.

To get this started there are three things that I use to help me get started to establish writing in my classroom.

 

Student Writing Folders

Students will still need a place to put their writing.  These writing folders will help you to support students as they work through the writing process.  Within the pockets of these folders students are given anchors that will help them brainstorm ideas, plan, draft, edit and revise their work.  Each anchor can be taught separately and added to the folder in a purposeful way.

Writing Anchor Board

This is displayed on a bulletin board for your students.  This support will be a reference for students to remind them of the different writing forms they identified as being interested in as well as provide them with success criteria charts and exemplars as students write them, and any anchor charts that you create with students throughout your responsive lessons.

Story Wheels

These story wheels will help students to generate ideas.  If you have students that struggle with generating ideas for writing different types of stories then these wheels will help you to support these students.  Students will either create personal wheels or you can support them to create class wheels in small groups or as a whole group depending on need.
Want more information about how I implement my writing program in my classroom sign up now to join the waiting list for my upcoming ebook – Ignited Writing: a Differentiated Cyclical Approach to Writing. 

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