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Capturing Student Interest and Voice
Rachel asks: How do I pick relevant topics for the students to choose from?
Let them do an interest inventory/survey or a focus group. Choose the highest rated activities. Offer as many of the highest rated activities as you can. It really doesn’t matter what the broad topic is, a viable activity and project can always happen. Any topic from playing guitar to exploring science can develop into a meaningful project-based learning activity. The key is being able to facilitate the student discussion….asking the right questions when needed to help them process. I am going to provide more information on this as we move through the next three weeks.
If you want to dive in now, I suggest you use the Learn More Library, External Resources, choose a site and search for capturing student voice; creating activities that relevant.
Chelsea asks: How do we come up with projects that all students will enjoy?
Student voice is the primary vehicle to ensuring students want and engage in an activity and/or project. Ask them what activities they want and then give them those activities. As a facilitator, you will then guide their work to ensure they get to the highest level of learning. We are going to talk much more about all of this in the coming weeks, but if you want more information now, begin the PBL module on Y4Y and also go to the Learn More Library and look around. You will find some inspiring ideas there.
Rachel asks: How do you incorporate all of their interests into a full project-based learning experience?
Explain to students either before doing the interest inventory/focus group or after doing it that you won’t be able to provide every activity that they want, but will do your best to offer the activities that they indicate they want the most. My experience has been that no matter how many times you do these inventories (especially with elementary students), they generally are interested in the same topics. So, once you have an idea of what they want, create the activity descriptions and develop a schedule of offerings. Let students choose their top 3 (numbering 1-3). Generally, I tell students that activity enrollment is first come, first served. This gives them incentive to get those schedules back quickly. If you find that the majority of students are picking a specific activity as their top choice, you may have to offer more than one session of that activity to accommodate all students. You can also tell students who did not make it the first time that you will offer it again and they will get first option then. Creating demand is never a bad thing to encourage student interest and increase response and attendance. Once you have mapped what they wonder, you will need to let students vote on the topic they most want to explore. This is a democratic process and students generally respect the process.
I am glad you brought this up because I think in the midst of all the technically difficulty, I failed to adequately cover this. I will add more on it during the week.