Thursday, March 2, 2017

Find the Force #4 (Genius Hour #4)

It's amazing what happens when you give students a stake in their own education.  That's what our Force Projects are all about (you can read more about our journey at Find the Force #1#2, & #3).

It's amazing how time flies!  I figured it was time for another update on our Force Projects, seeing as it's been nearly five months since the last one...whoops!

We've settled into a nice routine of working on our Force Projects one day per week.  Our cycle goes something like this:
Week 1 - work time
Week 2 - blog post (usually with a specific prompt)
Week 3 - work time
Week 4 - reading/commenting on others' blogs (Force Connections)
This pattern has worked well to give students a good amount of work time, but also meeting the goal of communicating their work with the wider world!  It also has helped with classroom management, I think, because they feel like they have to use their work time well, since they only get it every two weeks.

Some challenges we've faced, complete with some solutions, are:

  • Some students are finishing early, especially if they chose an easier project or one that is narrower in scope.
    Solution: Brainstorm with students about ways to extend their project to go deeper!
  • Some students chose projects that have elements that need to be completed at a different time or place, such as building an instrument with materials they have at their house or teaching kindergartners about music.
    Solution: I have talked with these students individually about using our work time as a study hall to get some of their other homework done to compensate for the outside time they are spending on the Force Projects.  I also have some fun things they have been exploring if they don't have homework to do, like a Sphero and different iPad apps.  They still participate with us on the blog post & Force Connections days.
  • Some students have hit a "roadblock" with their project, where they struggle to know what to do next or where to go.
    Solution: Because everyone is working independently, I have had the chance to conference individually with these students to brainstorm ideas and next steps.  It is so good to help them work through adversity - what a real-life skill!

I've gotten mixed feedback from students about the projects, but it's mostly been positive.  One of the things that made me laugh was, when we didn't have a Force Project day on our first day back from Winter Break, the kids were groaning and asked if we could substitute another day sometime soon!  This showed me the importance of keeping the structures I've set up - students do better when they know what is expected, and deciding to go away from our set structure, even for a day, did not sit well!

I'm excited to see how our projects continue developing and finish up - we are starting presentations after Spring Break.  Any tips for conducting presentations?  Leave a comment below!

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