We’re going to share some advice about how to manage projects, at both the secondary and elementary levels. Projects have lots of moving parts, so we’ll highlight a few key elements and share some best practices.
Launch your Project with an Entry Event
Rather than simply announce a project, we can generate interest by creating a special event that takes our class out of their routine, and lets them know something special is about to happen. Entry events should engage and intrigue, and provoke students to want to know more. We avoid pre-teaching important content, because we have not yet created that need to know. Entry events might be a field trip, a guest speaker, a video, a simulation or a piece of real or mock correspondence.
After the entry event, the students should have a need to know more. The entry event should provoke student questions. The goal is to grab the hearts and minds of your students. For lower elementary you may want more than one entry event to build their understanding. They need things to be more concrete.
Create Teams to do the Work
When creating project teams, four is often the best number. Groups of five may spread the work too thin. But groups of three can work also. In the elementary level at K to 2, you may have the whole class doing the project as a single team.
It is usually best to have heterogeneous groups, and the teacher should help set them up. Group students strategically, so they have the support they need to be successful. For example, you want to make sure that any students who are still learning English have someone who speaks their language in their group.
We often assign students special roles within a team, related to the real world jobs that would be required to complete the project. You can share information by gathering representatives from each team – such as all the researchers, or all the designers. This way you avoid taking time from the whole class, and it allows you to share information more efficiently.
Create a Project Wall
Hand out documents only as they are needed. You don’t want to overwhelm students with instructions. It is a good idea to have a central place where the project documents are posted or stored. Nothing kills student enthusiasm at the start like dropping a huge project packet on their desks. You can avoid this by using a project wall – have just one copy of each key project document posted, and then students can find what they need when they need it.
In the elementary classroom, the project wall can also be used as a gathering place where we can go over what is needed. You can use post-it notes on your calendar – then they can be moved if the need arises.
You can also create a digital version of the project wall that students can access from home using sites such as Glogster or Edmodo (see previous post on Edmodo).
Entry Events, Day-to-Day Flow, Classroom Culture & More! Ready to take the plunge and launch your first project? Or perhaps you'd like to expand your existing repertoire of project implementation strategies or learn how to manage a project better? In this webinar, we take a look at various facets of project management, including: using entry events to stimulate interest and curiosity at the beginning of the project; the typical day-to-day flow of a project; creating the classroom culture conditions for PBL to flourish.