I'm planning a new pretty exciting project for next year, and I'm ready to share my outline. For those of you who might be planning something incorporating PBL, 20% time, and close-reading, this may get you thinking :). I hope it helps!
I've read a lot of information on Genius Hour or 20% time, and I tried to, sort of, include it into my curriculum this year. However, I did a really bad job. For a few reasons: I didn't give kids enough time to write and to explore in class; even though my kids were writing about what they enjoyed, there were still deadlines, meaning that it was still just an assignment to be graded; and lastly, my students didn't have a discovery to make -- they lacked direction.
If you've read my blog before, you know that I had my students blog this year about something of their choosing. They were required to write 6 blog posts of 500 words that followed the QOEGV rubric. And as awesome as this may have been, it wasn't enough. They weren't reading closely. They weren't citing things properly. And by the end, they had said all that they wanted to say and were simply rambling to reach word count requirements. Who does that help? Nobody.
So, for next year, I'm completely revamping this project.
Instead of having students jump right into blogging, we're going to do a lot of close reading practice. This will be done for the first semester. I want students to get the feel for how to read closely and develop a toolbox of strategies to use out on their own later in the year. I'm plan on having students use writing notebooks and ProCon.org as a jumping off place. We'll do these every few days -- learning how to develop an argument and do research on a topic with valid sources.
We'll also focus on an Article of the Week once a week on Fridays. I plan to use this as my 20% time, if you will. Students will collaborate and discuss issues based on the Article of the Week and then learn how to respond to the article through writing. This will teach close reading and writing strategies. You can read more about AOTW here.
By the end of the semester, I hope that students will have found at least one topic that they are interested in exploring deeper. Students will then, at the beginning of the second semester, turn this topic into a guiding question, which will lead them for the rest of the semester. This question should, obviously, be broad enough for students to be engaged in for an entire semester, but narrow enough to eventually answer.
For the rest of our Fridays together, students will participate in PBL workshops in which they will write, discover, ask questions, and share. I have a lot of developing to do with this part, but I'm envisioning blogs, researching articles, round table discussions, and mini-presentations. I really want my kiddos to move at their own pace in this workshop, too. I will set deadlines for the end of the 9 weeks (1 mini-presentation, 1 round table discussion led, and 3 blogs written, for instance), but let them choose when and how to accomplish these tasks.
For their end product, students will create a synthesis packet and write a synthesis essay discussing their topic and their research. This will cover the standards from the CCRS while still giving students autonomy on what to write about.
I'm excited to try this, and even though it's a lot of time to commit to one project, I see it being amazing. I want to put learning into my kids' hands, and I think this is the way to do it.
Until next time,