Define the Problem:
Last year, I found myself in a bind when creating my schedule. Thomson was moving to a 90 minute weekly PLC for all grade levels, and I was tasked with covering students for half of that time. I stared at the daunting content colors in front of me, realizing I had much more scheduled time with students on a weekly basis than I had in the past. At first, I tried to fill the time with a variety of tasks, but they didn’t seem to engage the students. These tasks involved all students working on the same thing, at the same time, with the same technology.
Passion Projects seemed to be the answer, so I decided to try this type of learning out with my 4th-6th graders. As I started to put all the pieces into place, I began to think I was crazy. How was I going to be able to manage a whole grade level that was working on different topics, at different stages in their project, with different technology tools? There was only one way to find out, so I took a risk and went for it.
As with anything new there come successes and challenges. I would have to say that my biggest success was the student engagement. At first, when I told them what we were going to do I didn’t get quite the response I wanted. They were moaning and groaning about having to do another research project. As the year went on I saw a huge change in my students. I rarely had to redirect students because they got to choose what tool to use and the topic they were most passionate about. I also found it to be a great way for students to collaborate with each other. I allowed students to use the following tools to show their learning, but didn’t limit them to these:
My biggest challenge was supporting and giving feedback on all the different projects. When I implement passion projects again this year, I will be very intentional about when and how I give feedback. Check out these resources on giving feedback while facilitating Passion Projects or Genius Hour in the classroom:
One thing I would advise is to have a way to track where students are in their projects because once you get this started they work at different speeds and it is hard to keep up with all of them. Some ideas and tools for how to manage many different projects at once include:
My biggest takeaway from this whole process was that our students needed to be risk takers. So many students were afraid to push the button and try something new because they were afraid they were going to break something. It took many conversations with them about being risk takers for them to finally see that they could do it. As a result of this learning, instead of library orientation this year, I tasked the students with creating a book (Book Creator) or a short video (PowToons) that explains different technology and library expectations. Doing this task pushed them to be risk takers from the moment they walked into the library this year. I know that there will be some growing pains when we begin our passion projects again this year, but that is the BEAUTY of education; you never know if you can do it unless you try!!!
Want More Passion Project Info?
Would you like more resources on starting Passion Projects in the classroom? Check out these articles and books!