Projects are a great way to keep students engaged during this era of remote learning. Projects entail student choice and allow students to express themselves in a range of creative ways. The key to project success? Be sure to incorporate the executive function aspects of projects: plan, do, reflect.
Read below as our fearless student correspondent, an eighth-grader with dyslexia, tells the story of a project she did recently with her class.
After lunch, my school tried to incorporate a hands-on learning project. I was feeling like there was too much uncertainty. There were a lot of projects to pick from, but as I looked at them, the majority of them weren’t practical for me to do.
Some of them either required you to already know the skills or you need help from a teacher. Others seemed interesting at first, but when you looked at them more, there were hidden traps. For instance, one of the choices was bread making. But when I read it, it looked way too complicated and science-y for me to do on my own. Then I thought I’d do yoga, but I wasn’t wearing the right clothes because our teachers hadn’t given us an overview of the activities ahead of time.
While this process sounds frustrating, there’s a lot going on here that will ultimately set this student up for success. By thinking through her options carefully, she will be able to avoid the “hidden traps” and will select a project that is both interesting and realistic. Help students think through their choice with targeted questions built into the directions (What materials will you need? Do you have the necessary skills to complete the project?).
I ended up making a nature mandala. The instructions on the project were pretty vague and open ended. At first I was upset because I thought we were supposed to use natural object from the outdoors, but because it’s winter, there are no objects outside. I had read the instructions wrong. For instance, the instruction said we should use “found objects” and kitchen supplies or something, and I thought that meant any object I found in the house. My mother told me I was wrong and helped me fix it, because it actually turned out to say “pantry supplies.”
Understanding the directions is another hidden trap in projects. At SMARTS, we like to have students rewrite the directions in their own words. This is a great way to check that students understand the directions. Students can also turn their directions into a timeline or an editing checklist to guide their work.
In remote learning, less is more. Giving kids the time to work through projects systematically, with checks on understanding and a chance to avoid ‘hidden traps’ will result in work that is more successful and more meaningful. In the words of our correspondent,
After all, the project was fun and I think it turned out pretty good.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director
This post is part of our Real-Life Experiences with Remote Learning series.