Project Illustrate Day Two

So the students are all excited about engaging with primary school students to find out what they like about picture books. We’ve decided to create surveys that groups will use to find out more about what the target age group like (characters, plots, etc).

In groups they developed their questions and the hardest thing for me was to step back and let them wrestle with it. I had to stop myself from suggesting, though I did help when I was asked by the students. Not trying to be in charge was unusual, but also exciting for me as it means I am encouraging them to be active participants in their learning.

What’s next? To get the results of the surveys and interpret the data collected. Then we can begin working on the books themselves. Of course, as we move through this process I’ll need to supply them with information about elements of picture books to develop their knowledge. But what is important here is that the project comes first, getting that initial engagement, finding out what they already know (no busy work here thanks) and then filling in the gaps in their knowledge as we go. I am going to encourage the learners to give me feedback on areas they need to know more about, but I am making that conscious decision to move from the front and centre of the room to a facilitating role.

Project Illustrate

    Day One

This time of the year I get sick of doing things the same old way and I get off my butt and try something different.

Today I introduced my year 8 English class to Project-based Learning. They have an assessment task due in a few weeks and rather than teaching them all about picture books (the topic) and then constructing the end product, I decided to dip my toe back into the PBL pond (see previous posts for my last foray into PBL) which I’d been longing to do. I clearly explained to students the difference between assessment of learning and assessment for learning and how our needs in completing the product would drive the learning that will take place. Just as before, I also want them to develop 21st century skills of collaboration (the project can be completed in pairs), communication and connection.

To make it even more engaging than just “you’ll make this picture book and a teacher will mark it” I told the students that we’d have to engage with our audience (7-9 year olds) and that to do this we’d have to visit a local primary school. We haven’t nutted out what the audience assessment will be yet, but it has certainly added that element of danger (?) to what we’re going to accomplish – that is, students will be accountable to a real audience.

Today we started by discussing (using Think:pair:share and a KWHL chart) what students already knew about picture books, why their favourites were their favourites, what they might need to know to complete the project and how to go about getting the skills and knowledge needed. There was a buzz in the room as these students were engaging with a different way of doing things, and I was certainly buzzing too. I had them first period and then again last period and I was so energised (and so were the students) that it didn’t seem like last period on a Friday at all.

This is only the beginning of the project and I know that the project will have its ups and downs, but right now I just want to share the excitement I feel at beginning to do something different.

What are my aims for this project? I want the students to learn how to make a great picture book, I want them to learn how to collaborate with others, I want them to engage with the world outside the classroom, I want them to experience frustration when things get tough and elation when it all comes together.

Most of all I want to see the proud looks on their faces as the present their books to a real audience.