Beginning a new Project

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

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!

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