Method 2: Project-Based Assignments (March 12 – 16)

3 Apr

This method is one that I actually did over spring break a couple of weeks ago.  Students were given the following assignment where they had to answer questions about their lives, make a timeline on a poster including pictures and sentences, and prepare a three to five minute speech giving us their autobiography:

Autobiography Speech Project Directions

Autobiography Worksheet

The last day of school before the intersession was March 9th and we came back on March 19th.  This gave them well over a week to work on the project.  Of eighteen students, only seven completed the project and were ready to give their speech when they returned to school.  Here is the gradebook of students who turned in their assignment.

Autobiography Timeline Poster

I’m not sure if the rest of the students just chose not to do it.  Maybe they were too busy over the break.  Maybe they didn’t even take the assignment home or write it down in their agendas.  I gave them the assignment sheet a few days early and I also gave them poster board rolled up in a rubber band so their parents wouldn’t have to go buy any.  Still, I had a very low return rate which is not unusual for this group.  Over the winter intersession, I had assigned a cereal box book report and only about half of the students completed that one.

Pros:

  • Students enjoyed the assignment.
  • Some students only did the worksheet and not the poster, but they were still able to get up and give their speech.
  • Students were able to spend time with their parents working on their assignment.
  • Students learned interesting facts about themselves.
  • Students learn oral communication and become more comfortable with public speaking.

Cons:

  • Project-based assignments are time consuming.
  • With the stress of state assessments, little time is left to use projects in or outside of the classroom.
  • Prep time for the teacher is huge with project-based learning.
  • Some areas, such as math, are difficult to implement in projects.
This poll reflects that fellow educators do not feel that complete project-based homework would not be beneficial to students.
Joseph said, “Because of the block scheduling I have at this school, and the pressure of getting those test scores higher for the Hawaii State Assessment Tests (HSA) and the Algebra II-End-of-the-Year tests, I don’t have too much time for projects.  Students need to learn more procedural things on how to do problems and after that, see those problems as a whole.  If we didn’t have HSAs and the AlgII End of the Year, then yes I would incorporate more projects and Physics labs.”
I could not agree more.  I feel that project-based learning has so many excellent qualities.  The problem is that we are already rushed as it is to get to every minute standard that is required.  There is literally no classtime left to incorporate projects.

Jana said, “Projects are good for older students.  However, parents either don’t have enough money or time to get the necessary items for the projects or the parents complete the entire project without the student helping.”

I agree that a lot of times, parents end up just doing the project for the student.

Would I be willing to use this method in my future classes?

Absolutely!  Hopefully within the next few years I’ll have all the kinks worked out with my curriculum mapping and I’ll be able to include several projects throughout the year.  I think if I were to use project-based learning more often, I would have check points where students would have to show there work to date to make sure they were progressing as expected.

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