Today I introduced the project to the students. It was very interesting and very quiet! I didn’t say much about it to begin with…just asked them to Google “20% Project” or “20% Time” and have them explore videos, posts, articles, etc…about the project and ideas. They were so QUIET. Now this is a class that is generally quite enthusiastic so the extreme quiet threw me for a loop. I thought for sure they would start to talk about what they were seeing and finding online…nothing! You could hear a pin drop!!!
After they had some time to check it out I tried to gauge their reaction by having them give me a thumbs up, thumbs horizontal or thumbs down as they were still very quiet. I would say there were about ten students who gave me a thumbs down. About the same who were in the middle and the rest were excited about the idea. So, I asked what their fears were just to see where their heads were – I knew they would need more time to wrap their head around it like I did, but I wanted to hear their initial gut reactions. The main fear was not knowing what topic to pick. Subsequent fears that popped up were the grading process, rubrics, and if they would have to do it alone.
I started to alleviate fears by showing a short video of some tenth graders at York High School in northern California (previous post). This video has the students share what their project is about and I thought this could help my students start generating an idea of their own. It is also a great video because it shares the very varied ideas that the tenth graders came up with. One of my students asked if they could work together in a small group like they had seen in the video. I said they could, absolutely, but that their project must be something they are all equally passionate about and not one person saying, “Let’s do this!” and recruiting helpers.
Another fear that came out of the conversation was about the grading. I shared with them that there would be two rubrics…one that goes along with their weekly blogging and one that goes with their final reflection presentation (previous post). I also shared with them that FAILURE IS AN OPTION! If they choose something and don’t achieve their goal, I won’t be holding that against them as they will still be learning huge lessons, not only in the CCSS, but in life. It is important to learn how to deal with bumps in the road, maneuver around them, and come out on top!
The most prevalent fear was their not knowing which topic to choose. For some students this is waaaaay too open ended and never having this kind of opportunity before has put them into a wee bit of a tailspin. They want you to tell them specifically what they are supposed to be doing. But this will not happen here! I have given them two days to talk it over with friends, brainstorm with their parents (I told the students I would be emailing their parents the information), and just think. Thinking is key. They are going to have to discover for themselves (with a little help from friends and family) what their passion is…or this will not work because their idea must sustain them for the entire time of the project.
I did the survey again and got about two thumbs down, four that were in the middle and the rest were feeling groovy! A huge improvement from earlier. I hope that after they have had some time to think, talk, and develop some ideas they will feel even more comfortable and the excitement will build. I know that I am super excited and can’t wait to see what they come up with as their topics. I heard a few snippets of conversations, but I will wait until they submit their ideas formally before I share what they will be doing on this here blog. I will find out in just two days!!!
I also emailed the parents today so they would know what their students were talking about when they bring it up in conversation. And as these are seventh graders, it is a good conversation starter for the parents because they may not bring it up at all. Teenagers! 🙂
More later! Thanks again for reading! 🙂