You start your day and have a great lesson planned and an even better project for your students to complete. Your hopes are high as you teach the lesson and give the directions for the project. You inform your students that this project is going to take two weeks. You give them the rubric and the bell rings. Over the two week period, you observe your students talking together and appear to be working as a team. You even walk over every now and then to catch a glimpse of some of their ideas and plans here and there. Finally, it’s time for your students to turn in what they have worked on so diligently for the past two weeks. The day ends and you grab a coke, a snack, and a pile of completed projects. You are anxious to see the work. You take the first project off the pile and “Ta Daaaa!” it tanks. You continue looking for that glimmer of hope, project after project after project, but nothing. In fact, the highest grade is around an 80 and you begin to wonder what you have done wrong and where did you fail.
How many of you have experienced this? I know that I have on a regular basis. I even began questioning my abilities and the future of my profession until I decided to change my process. Below are the 4 steps essential steps for getting better work from your students.
1. First, you must explain the project in detail and let your students know how this activity benefits them. Not just because of a grade, but more. A lot of students feel that the work they complete in class is busy work and that it is or will be of no use to them or anyone else in the real world. In most cases, if you plan activities and projects that the students can use outside the classroom or that someone else will see and use, they are more likely to do better work. For example creating a cookbook-something to be used at home; creating a pamphlet on a topic that may benefit someone else-such as a teen pregnancy pamphlet, etc.
2. Next, you want to monitor your student’s progress. It seems like common sense but many teachers including myself like to have students working on projects while they get other tasks completed. Instead, require that a different part of the project be complete by a certain day. This can be done daily or every other day. A great way to go about this is to create a small chart with group names and the different aspects or tasks of the project. You would then check it off if they have it completed on the assigned day. Another great idea is to have the students give an update every other day about what they have completed and learned so far and you can even have them describe their plans for the next day as well. Check out this example: Sample Check Your Student Progress Chart
3. Third, have the resources available. Again a no brainer but a commonly overlooked step. There are several teachers who assume students have access to most of these basic materials, but they do not. So, if you ask for a colorful project, have the art materials so that they may do so. If it must be typed, make sure that students have access to a computer and printer during class time. If research must be done, make sure you have reserved the library for your students to use for research purposes and so on. You get the picture; don’t set your students up for failure.
4. Finally, visualize your expectations to the students by giving examples. I must admit that I do better work personally when I have seen an example of what it is that needs to be done. And let’s face it, a lot of students are visual learners and they can read it and have it read to them all day, but until they see the type of work you want, it is up to their minds to create some sort of idea of what your expectations are. (With this being said, I have a task for all of you as well, but I’ll discuss that in more detail later).
Now, I’m sure all you wonderful FACS teachers may have more ideas to add, so feel free to share by commenting below! Just consider these to be the basics. In conclusion, take these 4 steps to heart and to school and watch your student’s projects exceed your expectations MOST of the time. Have a FAC-TASTIC DAY!!!