Thursday, March 14, 2024

Self-guided Student Projects You Can Do

I recently wrapped up a grading period with my students and I wanted to do something "different". They were all fairly proficient with technology and they had a wide variety of interests. I decided I couldn't find or create anything that would satisfy and challenge them all, so I went in the opposite direction. 

I didn't design a project. I gave them ALL of the power.

If your students are anything like mine, they BEG for control and choice. But, I've noticed they often don't know what to do with it when they have choice. So I decided to provide a framework for the project, but allow the students to fill in all of it.

You should have seen their faces. We had 5 days left in the quarter and I wanted them to spend time brainstorming and "researching" and asking questions, which would really leave about 4 days to actually DO their project.

I shared the "Self-guided Project" template with them in our LMS. We walked through it together. I asked them to list 3-5 topics they are interested in - whether because they already know a lot or because they WANT to learn. Then to think about the tools we've used in class, as well as ones they are already comfortable with (I suggested this might not be the project to "learn" a new tool). Then we talked about the audience. This one was tougher for them. I agreed teachers quite often are their audience, but that wasn't my goal with this project. We talked through why a project made for a kindergartener would probably look different than one done for an adult, a parent perhaps. And then we brainstormed together who some different audiences might be.

Finally, we talked about putting it all together. Since this was their first time with a project as open as this, I provided a list of potential projects they might want to consider, but strongly recommended they think creatively and that they could come up with something of their own design. Ultimately, their projects could be summed up in a sentence using this structure:

"I want to create a ___(fill in project) ___ about ___ (fill in topic) ___ for ___ (fill in audience) ___ using ___ (fill in tool)___."

They were off! It was awesome to see them design their project and move forward with them. Questions came up - help was needed - some projects finished quickly & new projects were designed with the same framework - some projects didn't get finished - but they all enjoyed it. Including me. 

The best part about this framework, it's not grade specific. It's not dependent on certain tools. If your students cannot handle ALL of the choices, you can fill in one or more of the components to guide them and as they gain confidence, you can reuse this with them and they will create something completely different.

I will definitely be using this again!

NOTE - as with most everything I do/create, the 1st rendition is rarely "amazing", so the version I'm sharing with you is somewhat different from what I used with my students. When I do it again, I wanted to be sure I was explicit with the four aspects - topic, tool, project, & audience - and I wanted to also have students create a Doc they could use more than once and not have to start over. 

If you'd like to make your own copy, please check out the "Self-guided Project Template" housed on my companion blog, Templates for Teachers. Feel free to look around at the other templates shared. You can make copies of any/all of them and then modify to best suit you.

If you use this with your students, will you let me know how it goes? I'd love to know.


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