Follow my blog with Bloglovin We had a guest helper today during our 20% are her observations...

In first period, I helped Hunter. It was awesome to see that we could apply this project to any special needs kiddos. Instead of using any technology, we physically built an airship with popsicle sticks. I found just giving him a few guidelines were helpful in keeping him productive. I also showed him a few ways we could give airship more dimension.

Throughout first and into second periods, I walked around with my iPhone and asked the kids a thought-provoking question: “What is your ‘Life’s Big Question?’” This is my 20% Project. Telling them to think of something you would ask a person or thing and receive a complete answer helped to direct their thoughts. I continued asking this question throughout the rest of the day.

My brothers, Isaac and Jacob, are building a 3D printer for their project. Seriously!! Don't they know that is almost impossible? Because it is so impossible, every Sunday, after church, we have to go to Radio Shack and Lowes to buy them things to build their printer. It's not something, at first, I believed that they could do, but now, I know they can do this. (Check out this video to see some of my inspiration.) And do it so well. Even if they do not finish the whole thing, the educators have made it clear... "Done is better than perfect."

From what I could tell, by third period, this project was a fabulous way to keep kids' brains still turning after the state exams. Although the kids have ideas, they aren’t motivated. We need something, anything, to keep kiddos moving. A couple of groups were designing T-shirts for their brand. Mrs. Witherspoon got a little fussy (like any good educator would) because there was not any creativity flowing. Finding a way to move forward is what we need to do.

I guess this whole post is quite scatterbrained, but over all, the project was a wonderful use of time, brains, and resources.


This was a post by guest blogger, Isabella Valdez.

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Today we completed our second of five days slated to implement a grade-level 20% project with 7th graders (about 270 students). For this project social studies, math, and ELA teachers collaborated to make this happen. I'm not going to lie, a project of this magnitude requires educators that are willing to take risks to do whatever it takes to make things happen for their students. As we met to plan for this project, we knew if we were to be successful, we needed to have some clear-cut goals.

Our 20% Project Goals:

  1. To create a learning opportunity that was student-driven.
  2. To create an environment that fostered inquiry and exploration...focus on the process, not the end product
  3. To expose students to a project-based learning opportunity with an authentic target audience, not their teacher
  4. To disrupt the learning environment to facilitate optimal success; to literally re-imagine what that learning environment could look like!

Yes, accomplishing our goals meant disrupting student a very controlled and organized way. Once we worked out the "taking attendance" issue, our solution to accomplish this feat worked really well.

Our 20% Project Schedule:

  1. We paired up six participating teachers and created three "Home Bases" with two teachers at each home base: One group in the two side-by-side computer labs, another group is in the library, and a third group in one of the science labs.
  2. Students selected a home base of their choosing.
  3. Students followed their normal schedule (electives and science were not participating). During Social Studies, Math, and ELA, they reported to homebase, signed in, and got to work...three hours of their day dedicated to work on their far, so good!  

It's been amazing walking around, helping students with a wide variety of topics and experiencing their enthusiasm. I had no idea just how creative this group was and our hope is, they will discover just how creative they are as well! Oh and that learning can be fun. While there is no denying a handful of students are probably taking advantage of the situation and not maximizing this opportunity, the vast majority are, and I for one am glad to see we are not holding those students back for the poor choices of a few! And  interestingly, we had significantly fewer students absent today than normal...especially for this time of the year...hmmm, something must be different!
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Crowdsourcing seems to be a new term that is in vogue right now. I recently read a blog post from Catlin Tucker about Crowdsourcing Information in the Classroom, and I've got to admit, I was intrigued! With all of the success the Boston police had in identifying and capturing the culprits for the marathon bombing due to crowdsourcing, I thought this was a term my 7th graders needed to understand the value of for future needs. Coupled with my recent study of Design Thinking strategies, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for my students to dig into the new content we were about to begin in class...Texas and the Civil War. So the assignment was simple. I divided them into groups and divided the topic into 5 categories. They were to find important pieces of information pertaining to their category. Throughout the day, students kept adding to the body of knowledge. They had to review what was already added and find information that was was some pretty engaging stuff! Below are some pictures detailing our progress:

Now, normally technology is the first tool we go to when we begin our classroom, that is mainly our iPads. But for this activity, trying to be "nimble thinkers" generating lots of information quickly, our iPads became our second tool to use when we began to snap pictures of all of this content. Loading those images into our Evernote account made all of the information searchable once we synced our accounts.

Our next assignment...we're going to take this information and organize it into Thinking Maps...From there, they are going to construct some scripts to podcast the information. Finished products will be posted soon! 
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I have been intrigued by the idea of implementing a 20% project for a while, but honestly, I haven't been brave enough to tackle it. Let's face it, I teach 7th graders! But fortunately, this year, I have a group of students that I felt would be a perfect fit something as unusual as this challenge...and I teach with some brave souls, so two weeks ago we launched what I hope will be an intellectual journey worth celebrating!

We launched the project with a presentation on exactly what the 20% Project was and included a video of some of Kevin Brookhouser's students describing their experiences.

We covered the rules and expectations for the project and I explained that I had shared a folder in their Google Drive with a variety of documents needed to progress through the project. We then participated in an activity called the Good/Bad Idea Factory activity modeled after the exercise I found on Kevin Brookhouser's website, I teach. I think. Students broke into small groups and had about 20 minutes to brainstorm as many topic ideas as possible. I told them not to focus on implementation of these topics or to get bogged down in what the end-product of the topics would be, just to brainstorm potential topics. 

The next day, we did a gallery walk to look over all of the ideas generated. Students had to select about 5 topics that seemed interesting. They completed this form to help narrow down their selection. After they narrowed their ideas to a final topic, they completed this form for their Proposal Pitch. This will be an activity in which they will pitch their proposal to their classmates who will then have about 2 minutes to give feedback about the proposal. I've included an article that discussed the importance of "pitching" your ideas to make them happen. Hopefully this activity will provide additional resources for students to formulate their best topic with a strong set of guiding questions.

One really engaging thing we did was the availability to host a Google Hangout with Mr. Juan deLuca from Mexico City who has implemented this type of project with his students. He explained the importance of generating bad ideas as well as good ideas because there's a fine line between the two. He also encouraged students to find a mentor to help with the project. All in all, it was a very productive first day. Stay tuned for further reports on our progress...I would say we're off to a strong start!
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