Choosing and Webbing a Topic

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Our next steps in starting a new project including choosing the topic and then webbing what we know about the topic.

We started our day with a Google form with 25 topics, then we narrowed it to 7,

then narrowed it to 4,

then finally to our #1 pick - Restaurants and Food!

Now that we have decided on a topic, the first thing that happens is that we need to web what we already know (and what comes to mind) when we think about this topic. Children formed groups and were given sticky notes and large butcher paper. I gave them about 10 minutes to quickly write down everything they could think of.

After we did webs in small groups, we presented the webs to the entire class, then consolidated all of our responses into one large whole group web. We started on the web at the end of the day, but decided there is still more to add to it tomorrow!

Beginning a new Project

Now that we have completed our first major project on Castles and the Medieval Times, we are ready to finish the year off in a big way. It's time to choose our final project topic!

I've been studying the book Just Ask the Children by Dot Schuler in depth, along with six practical guides for the Project Approach written by Sylvia Chard.
When choosing a topic, Chard notes that "Many different kinds of things may be studied in project work, making it an ideal way to integrate learning across the curriculum. The topic may be concrete or abstract in nature, local or distant, present-day or historical, small or large scale. The younger the children, the more concrete, local, present-day, and small scale the topic should be to enable them to draw on their own prior understanding. The fullest understanding is based on relevant, firsthand, interactive experience."

Keeping this in mind, I knew it was important to guide the children through the process of determining what makes a good topic. We sat down for a mini-lesson on what makes a good topic. Our list included:

1. Can you touch it?
2. Is it local?
3. Is it present-day?
4. Can you experience it?
5. Can you see it?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," then it may not be a good topic for us to study. 
After that, I handed out baggies that included about 60 different cut-up topics for them. Many of them came from their own suggestions on topics of interest throughout this school year.
The kids worked in groups to run each topic through the 5 questions and decide if it passed the test or not.

We sat down as a group and did it together after they had done it in small groups.

After that, we took all the "good" topics and voted as a class on which ones we were truly interested in, which ones were a "maybe" and which ones none of us had interest in. Here is our final "yes," "no," and "maybe" list.

Our next steps will be to input these "yes" and "maybe" topics into a Google Form or other survey and have the kids take a vote on our top 5 topics. Stay tuned!

Concluding our Castles Project

The week before Spring Break marked our final week of our study on castles. We had been working so hard throughout the months of February and March to take all of our learning and research about castles and Medieval Times and represent it in meaningful ways. We did many things to prepare for this night.

  • Each child wrote a personalized invitation to their parents inviting them to our exhibition night
  • All fact books were completed and hung up
  • Children wrote a non-fiction book about an area of castles they were interested in and recorded a video of themselves reading it aloud
  • The outside of the room was turned into the outside of a castle, complete with a working drawbridge
  • The inside of the room was transformed into the "bailey" of a castle - basically a courtyard with stables, stonemason workshop, blacksmith workshop, Leather workers shop, a Well, along with a dungeon, the great hall (with banquet table), and a bathroom.
We had a wonderful turnout for our castles exhibition. The following day, the K-3 students were invited to stop by and take a tour. The children did an AMAZING job showing their parents and peers around, explaining what it was all about. They were so sad when it was time to take it all down.

Here is the video that was shown throughout our Castle's Exhibition. It features photos from the entire project process, along with interviews with some of the children on their viewpoint of the project.

Castles Project Progression from Lauren Davis on Vimeo.