I’m just finishing week two of a three week project on building bridges. The goal of the project is to further study forces and begin working on engineering practices. One of my pedagogy-based goals is to connect individual lessons to a general goal and help students create a narrative about what they are learning. I’ve been interested in the idea of students building a story of physics as a way to understand each topic and hopefully see a clear picture of why they are learning the content. I don’t know if projects are necessary to achieve this, but so far it is helping me connect the pieces with them and constantly refer back to a singular goal of building a bridge that don’t break under a specified weight, using as little material as possible.
In order to be successful with this project, I gave students a schedule of work to be completed each day (both in class and at home) and a rubric for all graded parts of the project. This has helped my students keep on track and have clear instructions for any work that is completed at home. It also keeps me on track because I had to make sure every lesson ended with the students being capable of completing the required work. I’ve done this kind of backwards design before, but I’ve never done it while planning three weeks of class. I like the organization that this gives me and I think it gives a much clearer picture to the students.
I also have a narrative with fill in the blanks that goes with this project. It is several short paragraphs and we complete a new paragraph after each class. This idea is borrowed from my mentor teacher back when I was student teaching. We also made a WDIL (What Did I Learn) in this same format and students would call out the blanks as I read the paragraph before they left. I find this really helps put the entire class period into perspective and it gives a summary of what they learned. Several students have told me that they really like this.
So far, I really like the organization that this project has brought to my classroom. I don’t know if I can always come up with a good project for everything, but I hope to do more projects in the future.