You want at-home learning to feel purposeful and engaging for students, but you don’t want to further overwhelm yourself with work. What if there was a way to both boost student engagement and reduce the daily assigning, correcting, and keeping track of daily assignments?
Here’s an idea to consider.
How about creating a class project to work on? Each student can do their own small part, and then you can put it all together.
- Flexibility: Students may work on it a bit or a lot, depending on how much time they have, what their home environment is like, and how excited they get. If some kids do a lot and others don’t, the project can still move forward.
- Independence: Students can do much of the work on their own. This means they can engage in meaningful work on their own at home.
- Differentiation: Students can all work at their own levels of understanding and skills. You won’t have to create different assignments or adjustments for different students.
- Reasonable Teacher-Time. Once the project is rolling, your primary role is to guide and support students. You’re not spinning your wheels creating and correcting daily assignments.
- Intrinsic Motivation. Students have some autonomy as choose elements of the work. There’s purpose—they’re helping create a project. There’s belonging—their individual work is part of a class-wide effort. These are just a few intrinsic motivators that can be activated with this kind of work.
A Few Examples to Get You Started
There are so many fun projects you might take on. Here are a few ideas to get your creative energy flowing!
- Create a class anthology of writing. Students could draft short stories, poetry, journal reflections, letters, etc. Put them all together in a simple online or print format for everyone to read.
- Create a class math puzzle book. Students could each create their own math puzzles (with solutions). Put together a book of puzzles and give them to all students.
- Facilitate independent research projects. Each student can choose a research topic to learn about. They can then share what they’ve learned with others–either in partnerships, small groups, or with the whole class.
- Take on a reading challenge. Have students read books and make some simple projects to share with others. Set up an online platform such as Padlet to showcase the projects.
- Create games to play. Students might create board games, gameshow style quiz games, or any other kind of game. Make the requirement that they connect with content you’ve been learning about during the school year (or semester or last few weeks). Students can then play the games with family members.
A Process to Use
- Step One: Share the challenge with students. Whether you do this through an online platform or by email or phone calls, generate a sense of excitement with students.
- Step Two: Share some examples/ideas to get students’ thinking going. You might offer a list of kinds of writing to try or show a few sample math problems to create (playing off the ideas above). Invite students to come up with their own ideas.
- Step Three: Create a basic timeline for students. Try breaking the project up into one-week chunks. Set a goal for each week.
- Step Four: Set up a communication system with your students. When is your designated check-in time with them? How will they reach you if they need help? Can they help each other? If so, how will this work?
- Step Five: Check in. Stick to your communication plans. Consider reaching out to some students (who will likely need more support) more frequently.
- Step Six: Are you in a hybrid model? Save the tough stuff for when you’re in school. As much as possible, take care of tricky stuff (such as finding resources, making plans for projects, etc.) when you’re with students in-person. Then they can maximize their at-home time for independent work that doesn’t require as much support.
- Step Seven: Celebrate and reflect. Once the project is complete, make sure to celebrate the class’s accomplishment! Share with families, post pictures in the school newsletter, have students present to other classes, or find some other way to celebrate. Invite students to reflect on the process, name their successes, consider what they have learned about themselves as learners, and consider next-steps for future projects. Speaking of future projects, this is a great time to invite student input into what the next class project will be!
Of course, some students will still struggle with motivation and self-management–just as they would under normal circumstances. And let’s continue to remind ourselves–teaching and learning is so much harder right now than we ever imagined it could be. Taking on a fun project might be a way to rekindle your students’ motivation and your professional fire in a time when both are so desperately needed!
We hope this post has been helpful. If you’d like to read more posts in the “From Surviving to Thriving” series, click here. You might also reach out to either Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mike (email@example.com) to see how they can help your school navigate the tricky waters of hybrid and at-home learning.