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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Research is one of the many tasks that students need to develop especially in today’s classroom with many inquiry projects, google and student led activities. Building student research skills is so important, and how to sort through too much research to find what they need, especially at their reading level is important.
By grade 4 students are finally ready to conduct some simple independent research. However, up until this point, they often have very little experience with doing this. This is one of the many tasks that needs to be explicitly taught.
Here are some tips to help your students research
Teach Them How to Skim and Scan
This skill will help them to determine if the text they are reading is a good fit for what they are looking for.
Skimming is a skill that involved students determining if the article is appropriate for what they need so that they don’t waste time reading a whole article that isn’t relevant. They will skim through the not fiction text features to find out if they need to read more or skip it.
This skill is best modeled for students by the teacher. Show them exactly what you want them to do and talk through your process to doing it. This can be repeated as necessary for students in guided sessions if they need additional support.
Scanning goes a little deeper to determine if what they read answers their question.
Once they have skimmed the text to determine that it is a good fit then they need to skim the sections of the text for the facts that answer their questions.
This is also easily modeled to students and this skill can be practiced. Use this anchor chart to help your students to follow along with key steps to help them skim and scan.
Skimming and Scanning are best taught in conjunction with summarizing. This skill is essential to help students to get the GIST of the article that they are reading to make sure that they pulling out key details. Summarizing and research are two skills that work very well together.
When I was in school I was taught how to use the Dewey Decimal System. Today as teachers it is important to teach them how to Google. (is it just me or do you hear the song “Teach them how to Dougie”)
I use the analogy with my students that they wouldn’t walk into a library and yell “How many years does a bear live?” and expect a book to fly off the shelf and hit them in the head. They would also not expect to see a book titled “How long a Bear Lives”
They would look simply for a book on bears.
Google works the same way.
They cannot ask Google a question and automatically get the information they are looking for. We need to teach them how to google. Here is a helpful page to use to help you learn how to google more effectively.
Learning how to Google is an important skill and this lesson can also touch on many cross-curricular expectations to make these lessons a good bang for your buck.
Once your students know how to skim and scan a text. They understand how to summarize a text and they can google effectively it is now important that they learn to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly (fake news)
To build student research skills there are things that students can look for to help them determine if a website is a good quality site that may be reliable.
Sites like National Geographic, Scholastic, Encyclopedias, PBS, BBC and other news agencies are reliable and recognizable websites that are good places to start with student research.
Look at the URL
The URL gives many clues about how credible the source. Web sites that have the domain of .edu, and .gov are restricted and can only be used by certain institutions. These are generally considered reliable. If you are looking for information from specific regions the country domains such as .ca will let students know what country the website is from.
If you are looking for information from specific regions the country domains such as .ca will let students know what country the website is from. This will support student research when they are looking for content that is region specific.
Complicated URL sources with long unrecognizable names or blogs that are not simple .coms may be someone’s personal site and the information should be validated on multiple sites.
About Me and Bias
Web sites for student research should be clear about who the author is and who is producing the content. The author should be identified on the article themselves with a bio. If this is not present there should be a detailed about me page that identifies who wrote the information.
Authors should be experts on the subject area. Are they credible? Sometimes many popular research sites are not curated by experts and some are even student created websites. This is fine to use as a source but again the information should be validated in multiple places.
Another factor is bias. On the web, anyone can post their opinion. It is important for students to understand bias and how to recognize this in what they are reading.
Whenever you talk about student research skills you inevitably talk about plagiarism. This is a great time to introduce your students to the concept of plagiarism. Today it is easy for students to simply just copy and paste what they read online into their notes then copy their notes into their own writing.
For me, this is a very simple concept. The original author owns the sentence. They have put the words together into a sentence. This is something that you cannot copy. However, at this age, they are not doing research into topics that may be unique or based on original research.
So this means that they can use the fact from the sentence but they cannot use the whole sentence.
Help your students to skim and scan a text to help them build their student research skills.
Again this is where the ability to teach your students how to do a GIST summary will help. Extracting the keywords from what they read. They assembling them into a summary is a very specific strategy that is similar to making research notes. They have to focus on the key ideas and ignore the fluff to write a summary. This is the same skill that students use when extracting information for researching too.
Don’t forget to grab the Skim and Scan Anchor chart page that goes with this blog post.
Researching by using the web, is an important skill for student to master
Join Madly Learning in the Teaching with Inquiry Facebook group
Did you know that this post originally started off as a Facebook Live Video? This and many other things are talked about every week in my Teaching With Inquiry Facebook group. If you aren’t already a member click here to join us and learn more about how to start using inquiry in your classroom.
Creating a wonder wall is a great tool to use in inquiry to build a space where students can
get students thinking
share their learning throughout their inquiry
keep ideas concepts and questions visible
interact with others
share standards, learning goals, and assessment criteria
share evidence of learning
This post is part 1 in my inquiry series. To learn more about inquiry click through to see my many other posts about inquiry.
Also why not connect and stay up to date on all things inquiry by joining my teaching with inquiry facebook group.
What’s a Wonder Wall?
Wonder wall boards are built at the beginning of a unit and are kept alive throughout student learning. These are living examples of student learning throughout the unit.
Wonder wall boards are built at the beginning of a unit and are kept alive throughout student learning. These are living examples of student learning throughout the unit.
Building this board starts when you begin to provoke students thinking about the topic you are beginning to study. Students will look at artifacts and ask questions about what they are seeing. They activate prior knowledge and share this with others in a knowledge building circle.
Type of Display Board
This is an example of the board that I use for my wonder wall. It is a trifold board. One side is for my fourth graders and the other side for my fifth graders.
Sometimes I use these trifold boards and other times I just use my bulletin boards but this is great if you are lacking wall space and it also works to move around the classroom for students to use when you are working with them.
Here are some of the wonder wall boards from my classroom
I use artifacts to help provoke conversations and interests in a topic at the beginning of a unit. Artifacts can be many things
Most of the time I use pictures that I print out in colour. Especially if I don’t have access to real life objects.
If I have easily accessible artifacts like my rock collection or some small appliances from home I might use those as well.
The Role of Questions
To use a wonder wall at the beginning of an inquiry means that you provoke students thinking about a topic. Providing them with artifacts that gets them thinking.
Having them ask questions is the next step.
Students will take sticky notes and ask questions about what they see. Use these doodle notes in my resource library to help your students keep track of what they are thinking.
As students share thier background knowledge and their questions the board is built. These questions are the driving force behind your learning.
Group their questions into themes, use them to develp learning goals and success criteria and to find gaps in their knowledge that may require a teacher directed lesson to fill.
Put student questions beside the artifact or picture on the wonder wall and throughout the learning strive to answer these questions and keep track of unanswered questions.
It is through student questions that learning is constructed.
Another thing I learned while implementing my wonder wall is that when students ask questions I really really want to answer them. I want to share my knowledge and have them soak it all in and teach them something. I am a teacher!! this is what I do!! I know stuff and teach about it!! STOP STOP STOP. I had to get myself to stop!
This was not what inquiry was about. Sure, I am a teacher, but I am not as powerful or as knowledgable as Google. I mentally needed to stop myself and concentrate on not answering their questions but to ask them to add their questions to the Wonder Wall and allow them to figure out the answers for themselves.
I knew that I was going to lead them through my lessons to these answers but I needed to stop just giving them the information. They would now have to start working for this information because I was not going to give them an easy way out.
Sure later on in the unit, we would have a discussion on certain topics and I would explain different concepts to them. BUT we did this together. I was not teaching them I was facilitating their learning.
Giving them the tools to let them find the answers to their questions on their own.
And you know what…a funny thing happened.
They started learning faster than I had expected.
They took those questions home and found out the answers to them. They would read books during independent time and find the answers to our questions. They were discussing these things with their parents at home.
It was amazing to see how excited they were about learning these concepts which in turn also allowed our discussion at school to become more vibrant and engaging.
Sure there were times when a teacher directed lesson was necessary especially in the technical aspects of the units. But overall it was great to see them apply their learning in new and interesting ways.
If you would like to see how I made my Wonder Wall for these units check out my Video below
I now include wonder wall cards in most of my units to help teachers get started with artifacts for students and teachers to use to use as a provocation to get started with the units that they are teaching. If you are interested in the cards that were used for the wonder wall on the video you can get them in the two units below.
Learn more about inquiry. Next up in my inquiry series
In my classroom right now my grade 4s are learning about Rocks and Minerals. I have tried to focus more this year on using experiments and inquiry in my units. I have taught the rock cycle before but it has always fallen flat. This component of the Rocks and Minerals unit needs to be taught in a more engaging way. So in doing research for my TPT unit I cam across an activity that uses crayons melted over hot water.
On Monday I knew that I wanted to do this with my class but as usual I wanted to try it out first at home just to make sure that it worked well. Students are rarely good when an experiment doesn’t work out the way you need it too. So to prepare I stole some crayons from the little ones craft cupboard, ruined a cheese grater, and began to prepare the materials for my at home practice experiment.
But then I had an idea…..
A few days before a student showed me a video he had made of him drawing a picture with his iPod touch. He had used the time lapse feature in the photos app to film himself. It was great! So sitting in my kitchen I thought that filming this experiment of the Rock Cycle would be a great opportunity to try filming with Time Lapse Video. However of course I could just simply film the experiment I was inspired so I decided to write a story about the rock cycle to go with the experiment so that I could use it to help reinforce the concept of the Rock Cycle in a memorable way. So my Video was born. Check it out below, then keep reading and I will tell how I made it.
Writing The Story
Once I was inspired to add a story to the video I needed to plan it out and think it through. So I wrote it out a rough draft of the story. Once this was done I made sure that my draft was off to the side when I was writing live on the video so that I reduced the amount of mistakes that I made when writing. Writing out the story as I video taped was nerve wracking but very easy. The time lapse feature makes is look very cool on playback.
Steps in the Experiment
Each step of the experiment was a different video clip. I filmed these one at time. This was imperative that did this correctly because I didn’t have additional crayons so I needed to make sure that although I could rewrite the script I couldn’t redo the experiment portion. I rehearsed it then filmed it. I put my phone in the kitchen cupboard above my counter and turned on the under cabinet lights to reduce the shadows.
Putting it All Together
This was actually the easiest part. I used iMovie and this app is so user friendly to create a stunning video. I simply selected each video in order, zoomed and flipped the original videos so they were how I wanted them to look. I cut and clipped each video to make them fit together and transition nicely. To zoom in to certain parts and focus on the writing I duplicated the same video and then zoomed into the bowl so that you could see the crayons melting into an igneous rock.
Finally I switched to KeyNote and made my opening and closing slides then opened the slides to see them full screen and screen captured them. I added the new photos to my video and recorded my voice over the final image so that it would direct people back to by blog here or to my TPT product.
In the Classroom…
My students loved the video and it helped to consolidate their learning and review the steps that I had just demonstrated to them in class. They were also very inspired to go out and try to create their own videos about things. I am sure that I will have a lot of time lapse videos in my future.
If you would like to check out my Rocks and Minerals TPT Unit see it here.
Teaching science to two grades is always a juggling act. Lots of preparation needs to go into how you are going to teach two separate units to two different grades. I always teach a 4/5 and generally have the students for two years. So combining the units and teaching one lesson like I can in math and language does not work well. So it comes down to focusing on what is important, borrowing strategies from other subjects, organization and teaching independence. I teach in 20-30 min time blocks to each grade. Then they will have to learn independently as they do the task. However over time I have learned that sometimes students miss the point of the lesson this way as I am not there to guide them. However I have learned that there are some key strategies to make sure that the time students are working independently that they are learning the stuff I want them to learn.
Focus on What is Important
It all starts with the assessment and the cycle of assessment 1) Learning Goals and Success Criteria
First thing I do is share my learning goals and success criteria. For each lesson for each grade I post it share it, make a big deal about it. Students should always know what they are doing and why they are doing it. I also make sure I post it. I have a science board. All things Science are on this board if students are not so sure then they can look here. They also know that if it is posted on this board they will and can be assessed on it. They must know the topics listed on this board. I start with the daily goals on the board (smartboard or chart cart) Once students have learned this we then transfer it onto the science board.
Today we are learning to identify and describe different types of Energy
– we will read about different types of energy
– we will conduct experiments to see different types of energy in action
– we will use this experiment to help us describe each type of energy
– we will reflect on what we learned to help us figure it all out.
2) Borrow from Math
So the latest instructional strategy in math is to use a three part lesson plan in math to teach different concepts
Working on It
I thought if it works in math why not in science. So I started with this question:”How do I build reflection into science so that I can use it for formative assessment purposes?” My solution…
these are very popular on TPT right now and I thought how do I use these in authentic ways. I don’t just want cut and paste activities that have no meaning. I did struggle with why would I spend the time having students assemble these if they could simple answer a few questions in their notebook. However I like the look of them and feel that students will want to use them and decorate them. I will structure my notebooks in this way. On the left students will put their notes and interactive notebook activities on here. On the Right students will complete their reflection activity. Many of the interactive notebooks are based on the 3R reflection response that I completed in teachers college. The 3R’s represent Retell, Relate, Reflect. The left side represents the Retell portion and the right side represents the reflection section. The relate portion is weaved into both aspects. I find that with student reflection and retell I can gauge what students have learned and where we should focus. I don’t mark these, but I do read them and make note of student needs. They are great formative assessment.
Ok this is a goal and always will be. It is inevitable that as a teacher you must organize and organize well. As a split grade teacher there is no option you must put on your OCD hat and organize like a crazy person. (this is why everything in my classroom has labels, students have numbers, books are colour coded, and why I hate paper. Even your planning needs to be organized. For this purpose I am constantly making tables and charts to organize my lessons and feel like I live with timers dinging and signaling me to change what I am doing. I also feel that whenever possible you should utilize student and parent volunteers. I know I cannot do this on my own but I do have very helpful students (who love to stay inside instead of going out in the snow) or parent volunteers. I use these volunteers to organize my centers, fill buckets, order papers, photocopy or whatever else I need help with. I know I cannot do it all so I ask for help from whom ever is available and willing to help.
I have blogged before about my tips for teaching a split grade here but in science this is a very important skill. For a science class in a split grade students are often not completing a quiet activity. They are engaged in hands on activities or group work. This means that it is imperative that students learn how to work together and work independently as a group without you. You have to be okay with a bit of noise and you need multiple teaching spaces. Independent students does not mean quiet students independent students means engaged students. Check out my guide to Teaching Independence Free on TPT.
I have finally finished my next combined unit for my 4/5 plans. In January I go back to work from my maternity leave. If you follow my 4/5 long range plans you would know that I have planned to teach two science units: Rocks and Minerals and Conservation of Energy.