I have found a great treasure in education: Project based learning. In my wife’s school, they are transitioning from a traditional to a more project based learning approach to teaching. They are also going with a New Tech style of teaching, they are trying to develop a more business-like atmosphere in the classroom, where each students has their own computer (1:1 student : computer) , and work in small groups on projects that have real meaning.
The projects they are working on are scenario based. Teachers give their students an entry document that explains their project, and who what company they are doing this project for. This is all very business-like and modern. I have to admit I think it is great. They have students working on real-life projects.
What I like about this kind of teaching is that goes beyond the project to the outside world. Students are engaged, they are using technology and social media to connect with people in their school and outside their school about these projects. They also have their own social network called ECHO, which students and teachers can connect throughout the day.
So, how can I get that kind of experience into my gifted classes? I know that I have some limitations, but I have to work around those limitations just like a person who is the owner of a small business might.
This year, I have decided that I am going to go with a scenario type assignments to give my students the illusion that the project before us is more realistic, hopefully more authentic, and allows us to work more effectively.
Here is what I am doing:
1. The Letter
The letter is where our assignment is being explained to us. It is an outline of our goals, why we have the assignment and what who wants the final product. This letter is written in a a formal letter from one business to another.
2. The In-take Form
This is the form where we begin to gather what we know about the topic of study, and what we need to know or want to know. This is to help us get organized.
3. Group Procedures
As a class we will begin to break down the assignments into manageable parts. Each group will take a part of the assignment to do. They will choose what they want to work on based on their strengths and interests.
4. Morning Meeting
After the project is underway, I sit down with each group to make sure that they are working, and their part of the project is coming along. I also have whole class meetings so the students can see how each group is progressing. During these meetings, I try to show the students how their projects make up one large project. We also review the goals to make sure that the goals are being met, and students can see how their projects fit together. If there needs to be some revision, this is the time it happens.
5. Report Out
As each group is finished with their project, I have will have each group report out on their part of the project. We review what the goals of the project are to make sure that goals were met.
6. Letter Replies
Finally as a whole class, we work on putting this project into a meaningful letter back to the company of the original letter. We share what they learned, what they did to met the goals of the original letter, and the final outcome of the project was.
I don’t know if this is a perfect kind of way to teach my students, but it gives me some direction to plan toward as we move though a project. I also believe that students need to have meaningful projects that allow for cross-curricular connections. Students need to see how math, science, reading, writing, and the social sciences work together.
I also believe that this kind of teaching will allow students to feel empowered because they can use their creativity where their strengths are. They can also pull in the strengths of those around them working on the task at hand. Students also get the chance to work in a group. Some gifted students have a really hard time doing that. I want those students to see that there are some occasions that they will have to work with a partner or small group to get things done.
In closing, this teaching style is still evolving for me. It may change as my students work through a few projects. I will definitely write more about this in the future.