Sunday, October 30, 2016

Here I am... 20 hours before our first official "trick or treat" experience as parents and I'm quickly realizing that I'm doomed for the next few years ahead of frantic, down-to-the-wire crafting (which we all know my son will probably resent me for later in's cool... I owned that reality the day I found out I was pregnant). :) Regardless, Jared and I were both SUPER excited to come up with a halloween costume for Owen that met our solution criteria: "has to be unique, not too much trouble to make, and has to be recognizable."  Then we threw out tons of options that we thought might meet our criteria (James Naismith, the Pope, the li'l boy who entered Harambe's exhibit....) then obviously had to choose one that met the criteria (AND didn't push the boundaries of "too soon"... one of us has to be the moral compass in our household... oyi)!   Unfortunately, I can't tell you what costume we chose... we've decided to keep it top secret until tomorrow's unveiling... BUT I can tell you that after we spent time putting it all together over the last few weeks, we are SUPER EXCITED to get him out there for his first Halloween night. Let's be honest.... we're excited to see if other people recognize our solution criteria in action, without us telling them all about it! (Do they think it's unique? Does it even matter that it was handcrafted? Do they recognize what/who he's supposed to be?)  It has been a crazy month of embracing the process, so we'll see how our final presentation turns out tomorrow night!

While Halloween isn't every day for you or your students, this has been a great reminder for me of the excitingly stressful process you venture into with your students at the beginning of each project design & the launch with students.  For you as you design projects, it probably feels a little like this:

  • Phase 1: Define your goal - What big ideas will students tackle in the discipline? What question(s) will drive student learning?
  • Phase 2: Identify solution criteria - What targeted standards & skills will students need to develop in order to be successful in the project?
  • Phase 3: Generate possible solutions - What type of authentic tasks could students engage in to deepen their understanding of the discipline?
  • Phase 4: Make a decision  - What are the pro's and con's of each possibility? Which is the most feasible and still meets the solution criteria?
  • Phase 5: Create, design, implement  - 
    • What need-to-knows might students generate and how can those questions drive the learning?
    • What project benchmarks will help guide the learning? What should students be doing in the various phases of the project (early, middle, and late)?
    • How will students engage in inquiry throughout the phases of the project?
    • What scaffolding activities will help to address students' need-to-knows & the targeted knowledge & skills?
    • What opportunities will there be for feedback & critique, reflection, & revision of work?
    • How will creativity & student choice be incorporated throughout the project?
  • Phase 6: Evaluate its success - Does this project meet my goal and address the solution criteria? Where are your Critical Friends when ya need 'em!? Do I need to move back through any of these phases re-address areas of this project's design?
And for your students, the 3-4 weeks of your PBL unit, or 3-5 days of your PBL problem should feel like a Halloween blitz as well! "What's the problem I'm trying to solve?" (This is when they might write/articulate the problem statement)? followed by "What will it look/sound like if I've successfully solved the problem?" (This is when they'll revisit the Entry Event for "criteria" and probably be introduced to the rubric which will guide them as well.) They will then begin to dream up all the things they can & want to do to solve this problem (This often means you, as the teacher, are creating time for them to do that and guiding them to keep solution criteria in mind while not jumping straight to making ONE decision.) Students will choose one of their many ideas and start bringing it to life (Students will need support in making decisions with many on the table, and if they're making a collaborative decision... they'll need some guiding prompts/templates/matrices to help them in this process as well). With a decision "made" (knowing they may come back to this phase and select another option after they start researching, applying knowledge, and creating towards their decision), students will begin diving even more deeply into questions they need-to-know to support them in reaching their goal (so get those workshops ready)!!!!  And as they gain solid momentum on their research, they'll want to ask their peers, or other teams, if it seems like they're on the right track. If so, they'll cycle back to phase 5 and keep pushing on. If not, maybe they move back to phase 3! Either way.... this excitedly, stressful process is certainly one that supports their ability to problem solve but also gives them voice and ownership in the project as well. 

Here's to many more project designs and weeks of implementation which eb and flow resulting in plenty of creative treats and not so many disconnected tricks in your classroom!

Peace, love, and Happy Halloween!!!

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