Monday, February 18, 2013

Final Products!!

Final products are ALWAYS so exciting. It's the culmination of a LOT of hard work--on all accounts--so seeing it all finally come to fruition is just such an amazing feeling. Students participated in our first official Project Showcase with the entire school. The original goal was for both sets of my students to be participating in this Showcase (Planet X-ers and Cyrano Kids), however Planet X became SUPER time consuming so that project STILL hasn't wrapped up.

TIP: Projects will NOT always wrap up when you think they will. Students do not necessarily progress at the rate that you anticipate they will, and as PBL is a very intuitive thing, sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

So the Cyrano kids had created their final products (movie trailers, comic books, comic strips and xtranormal movies were their favorite creations) and were able to present and our for our first Project Showcase I would rate the overall feeling as a 2.5... we were almost to the point where we want a Showcase to be, and we had a lot of good basic ideas for creating a Project Showcase, but I feel that we we fell short of meeting our target. We could have improved by helping the students to be better prepared for how to present their projects. Many of the students have done presentations to their advisors before, but have seldom presented to their peers, none the less a GROUP of their peers. In the future, we will likely have students practice doing presentations to groups in their advisory class. We also could have better prepared the attendees to be productive with their Project Showcase presentations, by arming them with some quick questions.

TIP: It is important to reflect on your own performance before reflecting on a students' performance. If you failed to meet certain criteria to help set them up for success, then you should know that fact before you look at a students' work. You can do this by asking yourself questions similar to the following:

  • Did I meet all of my objectives?
  • Which objectives did I fall short on and why?
  • How can I make sure that I hit that objective fully the next time?
  • What did I do well with this project?
  • What could I have done better?
  • What didn't work at all this project?
  • Who can I talk to to help me do better the next time?
I've worked specifically on becoming a reflective math teacher, so this list is not exhaustive by any means, but it is a good place to start. 

Okay, so back to reflecting on the students' performance at the Project Showcase.....

Students presented the material in a very basic manner. While they had been excited about creating their projects, many of them had faced unanticipated struggles during the creative process and were not as excited about their final products as they had started out to be. With a semi-feeling of disappointment, students were not as enthusiastic during the Showcase presentations; they presented their project & their final product but didn't give it a lot of heart. Perhaps it was that we hadn't prepared them well enough to handle the obstacles that they surely would (and did) encounter; or perhaps we didn't give them enough time to wrap up and feel successful (and enthusiastic) again. In the future, I want to have a Pre-Showcase Prep Reflection day (instead of reflecting mainly AFTER the showcase). During this day, I would have the students come together fish-bowl style (or perhaps a different protocol depending on the students) to discuss their overall challenges, success and failures as individuals and as groups with this project.  We could discuss the growth-mindset (one of our cornerstones of our Advisory program--for more information search for Carol Dweck) and how that applied to our situation with this particular project. I would finish by having students focus on one aspect of the project that they felt they did particularly well and make sure that they highlight that during the showcase. I believe that this would help students to see that they weren't in the project alone (which should be obvious, but these are high schools and often think that it is an all-against-me scenario in a lot that they do), and that they did at least one thing better than the rest and that they therefore improved in one area (and will hence know an area they need to focus on making better the next time around). Students could then share these feelings (challenges, successes and failures) better with their peers to help support them in the future.