Monday, September 16, 2013

Planning a Year Long Project

By Stephanie Bartlett

Looking Closely:  Our Year Long Project 

During the summer, I read Role Reversal by Mark Barnes.  I loved the idea of a year long project that covers many curriculum outcomes and is based on student interests.  The idea that you can have something to just pull out when a subsitute comes and the students know exactly what to do and love doing it?  I was hooked!

Our overarching question in Kindergarten this year is Looking Closely/ Je regarde de près.  We will spend time looking closely at nature and other interests.  There is so much in the Kindergarten curriculum to cover about the sense of self, and what makes up the world of a five year old.  What better way to showcase and celebrate our students than to find ways to look closely at ourselves and our friends all year long?

Our Newsletter to parents explains the project.  We sat down as a team to decide how we would do this new kind of Star of The Week.  Students will bring five pictures representing themselves, their culture and their interests.  We will back them on coloured paper and laminate them so that they can be manipulated in different ways all year.

First activities: 

  • We need to design and create a class tree.  I bought twigs at IKEA that we will trim, bend and manipulate to create an accessible spot to hang our pictures.  Since we have our tree outside that we are sketching, and learning about, underneath and around, it is perfect to bring the tree theme inside. 
  • Laminated pictures will be left on a table for a few days to explore, sort and discuss.
  • Students will each be given the chance to share some or all of their pictures.  Last year, we did this:  Students shared their artifacts and their classmates asked questions.  I then guided each student through the process of writing on a sentence strip:  J’aime ____. or I like ____.  for my English Kindergarten partner.  He or she then cut up the sentence strip (great way to see awareness of letters, words and spaces, plus cutting skills) and glued it on a bigger piece of construction paper.  The student then added a simple drawing on a smaller white paper with a black sharpie and we had a great wall display of student work.  In January, we did it again with vacation memories and the sentence starter was J’ai fait _________.  or I _______ (insert action.)  With a bulletin board full of sentences, we engaged regularly in shared reading and students read to themselves or to each other.  The impact was significant:  struggling students remembered the conversations and became familiar with the sentence structure; more advanced students were able to use those as a springboard to create another book or sentence of their own.  This year, we will take that idea and keep it going for the rest of the year.

The literacy component of the curriculum fits in beautifully to this project.  When it is time to target a new skill or outcome, we will do it in the context of this project in tandem with whatever other inquiry we are exploring at the time.  We will spend more time during the first half of the school year to build our community and celebrate how we are all unique.  Once we have the framework of the project well established, who knows where we will go with it?  I am thinking that it will be an excellent way to tie in the Winter Olympics and how the athletes are unique as well…
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