Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Do You Want to Learn to Do?

modelplane At the beginning of the year, I ask my students to list three things that they would like to learn to do. It might be rollerblading, framing pictures, knit, build a birdhouse or model airplane etc. We actually brainstorm some ideas on the board because otherwise, they will sit there and say, “I don’t know.” Once the ideas get rolling, I have them list the ones they like and pick the top three.

Then we come up with a plan on how to learn about it.

1. Research. Use the library, the internet, and talk to others who have done this.

2. Make a list of the materials you need.

3. Find out the cost of the materials.

4. How much time is involved?

5. Find written directions that give step by step instructions on the procedure.

6. Read the directions and make sure you understand all the steps.

7. Gather the materials.

8. Complete your project.

9. Evaluate the project. Did it turn out like you wanted? What could you have done differently?

10. What next? Is there another project like this you want to learn? Can this project be expanded further?

Once we agree on the plan and I approve of their project, I set aside an hour each week for everyone to work on their project. If they find out that they don’t have the money to gather their materials, they need to find another project to work on.

I have my own project that I work on at the same time. This way I can model the learning process for them. Sometimes when I hit a snag, the students help me figure out a solution. This is a great way to also model collaboration.

Every summer I would think about a new project that I would like to do during the school year. One year I wanted to learn how to juggle. Another year I wanted to learn how to crochet. I had one student who wanted to learn how to mat and frame pictures and open up his own framing store some day. Many times my students want to get involved in my project or each other’s projects. It is really fun to watch them do this.

This “Project” project is so relevant to the student’s learning. They improve their reading skills as well as math. Sometimes I ask questions about the project that make them look up the history or the science involved in the project. Using internet and Skype for their research helps the students improve their technology skills. Students are learning something they are interested in and are more motivated to learn. They also feel they have control over their learning.

Have you done this with your class? If so, how has it worked out? Do you do it differently? If so, please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Made From Scratch - Model Airplane'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/18288598@N00/841596864 by: Erik (HASH) Hersman


mweisburgh said...

This is a great process. The only thing I would add is to establish intermediate goals and timelines, so that they can check their progress and learn how to plan.

Nick James said...

This is a great idea!

Over the summer I read "Shop Class as Soulcraft," which got me thinking about modeling for my students. The author described a major difference between the way tradesmen learn and the way folks in other professions learn is that in the trades, the master does the exact same job as the apprentice, but at a much higher level, whereas in other profession they might give an example, but do not do the same work.

A lot of teachers seem to show what they mean by giving a few examples, but this year I'd like to take it a step further and complete all major projects alongside my students. In the past I found models from other students, but doing it myself should have a stronger effect on them.