Project work is a staple part of teaching in the senior end of primary school. When done properly, they can develop and a massive variety of skills that go way beyond the scope of the curriculum for that subject. I can’t think of any other activity students take part in that encompasses a wider variety of skills! These include:
- Researching a topic online and using Word processing and typing skills
- Communicating with other team members – listening, being clear and concise with their ideas, debating and discussing a variety of options.
- Writing Skills – putting ideas into their own words, redrafting and editing, proofreading.
- Designing a scrapbook or poster – organising their ideas, making it visually pleasing, choosing the most important parts.
- Public Speaking – standing up in front of a class full of peers to present and discuss their work.
In this post, I’m going to break down how I approach teaching and facilitating projects, from selecting groups, allocating computer, library and independent work time, setting expectations for oral presentations, and ensuring students are learning throughout the process.
Structure, Frequency and Deadlines
I do try to mix up how the kids complete their projects. If you assign five history/geography projects, all to be completed in groups of four in randomly-assigned groups, the kids are going to be thoroughly fed up by the end of the year. Here are some options you can choose from:
- Switch between independent projects and group projects.
- Provide choice in their projects to engage their interests (e.g. pick a country of your choice/include five of the categories below).
- Have the kids include an experiment or design and make a showpiece.
- Get the students to make a PowerPoint presentation instead of a scrapbook, or use a website like Biteable.com to make an animated video on the chosen topic
- Interactive Booklets – these are less research heavy and require a lot of cutting and colouring. I like using them straight after a project/scrapbook project as it gives the kids a nice break. See an example here.
How often you complete projects really depends on the ability and attitude of your class. I’m aiming for two per term this year, but as you can see from above, some of them are less time and energy intensive than others.
In terms of a timeframe, I normally give students three full weeks to complete the project. Any shorter and some of them don’t pull it together in time, and any longer, they don’t bother starting it for a week or two. In that three weeks, I might give one hour a week for independent work, two computer classes, and a visit to the school library.
Assessing and Differentiating
- Get students to write down three skills they learned when completing their work, and include these ‘personal learning statements’ at the end of their projects.
- I always provide a rubric for their oral presentations beforehand, so the kids know exactly what I’m looking for. (Click here for a sample rubric).
- Provide options on how to complete the project (e.g. a 20-page scrapbook or a poster).
- Let the students you think will struggle with oral presentations go last, so you can clearly point out what other groups did well.
- If the project involves an oral presentation, spread them out over three to four days or you’re in for a looooong afternoon!
- Be very specific on the physical size of posters! It can be a nightmare to try and display work when students hand up 12 A3 pages in an irregular shape that takes up an entire noticeboard on its own – speaking from experience!
- If students have no access to a colour printer and genuinely need one, stick a piece of paper up on your noticeboard and set a deadline for requests. Otherwise, you can spend an hour Googling and printing images when you want to get around to talk to groups!
- Have groups contribute one or two questions each to a test on a topic – easy way to assess and engage interest!
I hope this was of some help to anyone completing project work with their class. If you get it set up properly, and all of your groups are working away on their own, it can make for a very enjoyable few afternoons!