Checking In

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since students pitched their ideas! In that time we’ve had some days off (yay for snow day give-backs!), talked about Serial, and continued to read Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

Not only are the kids killing it with their projects, they’re also doing awesome work with the novel. They’re surprised by the grittiness of Maguire’s Oz, and through an assignment I call “cultural connections,” they’ve made really interesting real-world connections between Oz and their lives. They’ve talked about how the racism and sexism faced by Elphaba mirrors what women face everyday, and talked about how the political unrest of this fictional world can be seen in America’s current election cycle. Their connections are thoughtful, meaningful, and deeply revealing (to me at least) about what their world looks like.

Last week I had a terrific opportunity to co-teach with the photography teacher in my building. He and I put together a lesson using Brandon Stanton (the photographer behind Humans of New York) as a model for visual storytelling. The photo teacher was able to discuss technique with the students, while I helped them to find the narrative in his series of photographs. It was a great cross-curricular opportunity with great results!

On Friday we’ll be working on project “stuff” again – this week their assignment is to develop a social media presence, and then to begin interviewing their subjects. After that we’ll start storyboarding, and then we’re moving right into the storytelling phase! Teachers out there, anyone have favorite apps or websites to help students storyboard?

Starting next week I’ll be featuring a couple of student groups & talking to them about their work – after all, they are my project.

Thanks for sticking with us so far; now the fun can really start!

Until Next Time,

Mrs. K


One Week In

I am very happy to report that our pitch meeting was an unmitigated success! WOO! (Literally, I was so excited about how well they were doing that I did, in fact, shout “WOO” more than once in 90 minutes.)

Not only were students prepared for their pitches, but their classmates gave them meaningful evaluations and honest feedback. They asked compelling questions, ones that I never would have thought to ask (“How will you differentiate your stuff from other content on Buzzfeed?”, “There are thousands of posts a minute about this topic – why would anyone listen to you?”), proving my theory that the digital world belongs to these students.

Even more than that, their self-promotion abilities are EXPLOSIVE – one group created an Instagram account that had over 150 followers by the end of the day. Other groups are following suit. They’re cross-promoting each other’s work. It’s ALL HAPPENING!

What’s even more exciting for me is the fact that no two groups pitched the same idea – each group has something completely different to say, different ways of wanting to say it, and different ways of promoting their ideas. They were professional, and prepared, and I am so excited for what’s going to happen next.

Each class had two pitch meeting “winners” – one group with the highest overall score (next year I am definitely doing this in Google Forms so that Sheets can analyze the data for me – this English teacher spent a LOT of time checking and re-checking her math on Friday), and another group with the highest Idea score. Each group will get to choose a project privilege; I’ve floated some ideas (veto power for the rubric, getting to choose their dates for taking over this blog), but I’m also leaving it to them. By Friday they’ll have decided, and I’ll share with you! This element of student voice and choice definitely comes from my reflections on my last PBL – I’ve found that loosening the reins is less exhausting for me, and also more empowering for them.

I’m so glad that you’ve all tuned in so far, and I’m so excited for you to see what’s coming. As the students build their online identities, I’ll keep sharing them with you. Follow us on Instagram (link on the right!) to be connected with their accounts so you can see what they’re up to. Starting next week I’ll be highlighting different groups so you can get a look at them before they really take the stage.

Keep an eye out – they’re savvy, and they’re coming for all of you!

Until Next Time,

Mrs. K

Pitch Meeting Prep

We are officially on our way! This coming Friday, we’re hosting a “pitch meeting” where all the groups will come together and pitch their ideas to one another, and today was our day for brainstorming.

We’ve decided to treat our groups like little start-up companies – teams are pitching ideas to each other, but they’re also looking to recruit other team members by selling themselves as a package. For the  meeting, the students have three options for how to enter:

pitch groups

Most groups have entered themselves in the “complete” category, but I do have a couple of “incompletes” floating around out there – they’re planning to steal team members away by offering a more exciting idea or medium.

In addition to the 30-second pitch, they’ll also be evaluating each other. Each type of group has its own questions to answer, but there’s also a presentation element:

eval sheet

Each category is worth 10 points, and the highest overall score will earn a project privilege for that group (an idea I’m borrowing from gamification). We’ve floated some ideas, like deciding on the date of their blog takeover, or a veto power in rubric development. We are, as yet, undecided.

What I’m most excited about is the conversations I heard students having today – I eavesdropped before conferencing, and their ideas are really exciting ones. They run the gamut from advocacy issues (one pair of girls is interested in telling a story about the life of a shelter dog), societal issues (the trouble with beauty standards, and a very interesting angle on an environmental story – I don’t want to spoil anything, but guys – this is going to be a GOOD one!), and some really fun stuff (get ready for prom-posals and memes!). You can check out the pitch meeting sheet and a sample evaluation sheet as well – I’d love some feedback! 

They’re finding their voices! They’re finding their stories! They’re finding their mediums!

Internet, I hope you’re ready!

Until next time,

Mrs. K

They’re here!

Well, it’s official – the launch is complete! On Friday, students were introduced to The Story Project and now they’re just as in the know as you are.

We had a bit of an inauspicious start. Friday morning was snowy, and when my first period seniors strolled in the door, my excitement was hampered a little by the question, “So, if people don’t come to class, can we just do nothing?”

Oof. That’ll take the wind right out of your sails.

No need to worry, though – the children did, in fact, show up, and we didn’t “do nothing.”

I wanted to make sure that when I introduced The Story Project that the kids would have the same context for the project that I did – I saw a problem with voice, and I wanted to correct it. So, to get them to that place, I asked them to write down the title of every novel that they read as an assigned text in high school. After a couple of minutes of struggling and questions like, “Wait, what was that one with the mouse?” (Flowers for Algernon; the one with the mouse is Flowers for Algernon), students had fairly comprehensive lists. Then, we went through that list and put down the authors of each of those texts. Shakespeare made things easy for them by showing up so many times, and they remembered some other big names (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, and even Homer!) on their own. Finally, we tried to remember who the main characters of all of those texts were. Again, they swept the Shakespeare categories, and characters like Scout and Jem Finch came right back to them.

That’s when we started to recognize the problem – the authors on our lists were overwhelmingly white (with the exception of Jean Rhys, who they read this year) and male. Also, almost every single person on the list was dead. The same was true for the characters – it was the students, even before myself, who recognized that any character of color was used in his/her text as a tool for discussing racism.

So I asked them another question – tell me three things you’re passionate about. I asked them what excites them, what keeps them up at night, what worries them. This list was actually the most difficult for them to create (undoubtedly that was the most distressing part of this experience), and many of them came up with things like “friends” or “family” – fair things for them to spend their time thinking about, but not necessarily what I was looking for.

So I took a different angle – if white men have the market cornered on print media, what can they do about it? We talked about viral videos, and Instagram posts, and Facebook pages. They realized, pretty quickly, that digital media belongs to them. They realized, too, that not only do they have things they wan tot say, but that they also have ways of saying them.

That’s when I handed out the assignment, and that’s when I showed them this blog (hey guys!) and my Twitter page. In my second class of seniors, I actually got a spontaneous round of applause to honor my achievement of having 128 (!!) followers. While the applause was thrilling, the best part of the day was three hours later, when one of my students tracked me down in the hallway to tell me how excited she was, and how she planned to do her project about…well, I’ll let her tell you. Because they’re here now, and the countdown is on for the student takeover of this blog!

I, for one, can’t wait!

Until next time,

Mrs. K

Resource Roundup

The week is finally here! In three short days, students will be initiated to The Story Project and will, for the first time, see this blog (hi guys!). As I get ready to really launch my second ever PBL, I want to share with you some of the resources that have helped me along the way. While my colleagues and in-building support have been (and continue to be) excellent sources of information and feedback, I’ve found that in order to really prepare something wonderful for the students, I’ve gone outside my building as well.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Buck Institute for Education – these guys are the resource to go to when it comes to all things PBL. They’ve got a great blog, which is currently undergoing major expansions, and some excellent planning tools.
    • The Project Planner is a great way to dive in – it’ll force you to think about all aspects of your project and it’ll help facilitate the deep thinking that leads to solid planning.
    • There’s also a curated selection of projects organized by subject area and level – it’s an awesome way to either get inspired, or to find a way of dipping your toe in the PBL waters.
    • Once you’re done planning, you can check your work against BIE’s Project Design Rubric to make sure that you’ve hit all the marks of a Gold Standard PBL.
  • Edutopia, per usual, has an exhaustive compendium of information and links to blogs, a discussion board, and videos.
    • This post in particular feels especially relevant and fresh, particularly for those of us in middle and high school settings, because it emphasizes student choice and authenticity in secondary classrooms
  • This post from Teach Thought, while a little older (from 2013) has also been helpful in directing me to all the different places that I need to go in order to get my questions answered whether it’s about resources or strategies.

So, there you have it – while this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s definitely a great place to get started, whether you’re just thinking about getting started with a PBL, or you’re an experienced creator. What are some of your favorite educational resources?

Next time I check in, it’ll be to let you know how the launch went!

Until next time,

Mrs. K