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On Getting Started

Pam Oken-Wright
Mon, 27 Oct 1997 21:32:45 -0500

I've been trying to pay particular attention to the beginnings, when children first encounter a project-based classroom. This year I have 14 just-fives (almost half turned five since school started) in my class. . . and enough with particularly high energy and volume to "shrink" the room, if you know what I mean. Apparently none had engaged in group conversation to construct theory or solve problems or plan projects before. In the beginning the children did not hear each other. . . nor me, for that matter. When I asked questions like, "How do you suppose it works?" I got blank stares.

Now, not quite two months into the school year, we are in the middle (?) of a project about trees. . . all begun in the studio, where one child wanted to make a tree out of clay. She drew a plan for her tree. It looked like a lollipop with spikes coming out of the round part. As we discussed her plan, she decided that her drawing would not help her know how to make a tree of clay (at this point she already knew that a ball of clay could not be supported standing by a coil of clay). I invited her to go outside to study a tree and see if she could figure out how she might make this tree. Nine of her classmates decided to go with her. For nearly an hour these 9 children sat with clipboards in front of one interesting tree and drew study after study (they seemed somehow delighted with the idea that, when you study something to sketch it, you don't erase false starts. There are no "mess ups." Instead, you put attempt one aside and begin attempt two, and so on). What resulted was a wonderful set of sketches. Within each child's set there is a sequence that shows the child, her classmates, the teachers, the parents, and visitors exactly what the child was working on and how she came to satisfy her goal.

On another day we came together to look at the sketches together. I asked the children if they'd like to do something more with what they'd learned from doing the drawings. They said they wanted to make a BIG tree, as big as I am (which is big only relatively!). What ensued was much discussion about what this tree might be made of: clay? Couldn't be enough clay to do the job. Paper? It wouldn't stand up. We visited the supply center in the studio, and the children decided paper towel tubes would be good. . . but too skinny. They wrestled with that for awhile. It looked as if discouragement were looming, so I suggested they might find something to COVER the tubes with to make them fatter. They chose newspaper, which stayed crumpled up on the tubes for a second but fell off. They turned to scotch tape to cover the newspaper, and I redirected to masking tape, in the interest not only of success but also of our tape supply. They then taped on "branches" of paper towel tubes. However, the tree would not stand.

I have noticed that, unlike later in the year, children in the beginning seem used to giving up when faced with a large problem. They do not yet trust that they will be loaned whatever they need to execute their ideas. When discouragement loomed, I simply said, "I wonder. . . if this were a real tree. . ." One child said, "The trunk stands real trees up." Another: "This tree has a trunk and it doesn't work." We are not where we will be eventually in this process of thinking problems through. There is more of me in our collaboration now than there will be 2 months from now. I suggested finally that we take a project walk and see if we could find out what holds trees up. Not only did we find roots at the base of trunks, but also roots that ranged out over yards beyond the tree itself. Most of the children had no idea that what stuck out of the ground all that distance from a tree actually belonged to the tree. Upon our return to the studio, the children added long cardboard tubes to the trunk to be roots. They painted the tree.

Periodically we had status conversations: How is our tree coming? What do we need to do next? which I tape recorded, transcribed, and studied to think about my role in all this. In one of these conversations the children argued about the length and angles of the branches. They decided to add longer cardboard tube branches. They have begun to talk to each other and not always to me. In another conversation, the children decided it was time to add leaves. I thought, based on what interested them during earlier discussion, that they'd want to wrestle with the decision about what season to make the tree. . . green for summer, orange, red, or brown for autumn, even "convertible" for a changing tree. Instead, they were interested in what leaves REALLY look like. And so, I took 5 interested children out to study leaves. This has initiated much observation and discussion about veins (in leaves as well as in their wrists), about angles of lines, about shape and size of leaves. . . and then it circled back around the trees as a whole, because in the middle of this leaf study one child who had, through her earlier study, seen only one trunk on a tree, noticed that the Magnolia tree in front of us had more than one. In fact, ALL the Magnolia trees in the vicinity had more than one trunk!

Meanwhile, the first "tree representer" made her clay tree. It stands probably a foot tall, and is probably 8 inches in diameter. It has twisty branches, rough bark, a hole for animals, and, at the end of each branch, one exquisite leaf. Other children have made clay trees. We've had countless paintings of trees (the watercolors are my favorite). . . and not a lollipop tree in the bunch. Some have such wonderful movement in them. One child includes a tree somewhere in every picture she draws. The children became interested in apple trees. One went to an orchard and brought back 6 apples "for an apple pie." One apple went to the class rabbit for a snack. We had a conversation to plan this apple pie, and most of the conversation was a construction of an idea about how many apples an apple pie needs. Today we made the apple pie. Children have reported about trees cut down in neighborhoods and have brought in huge hunks of bark, mimosa seed pods, and other gifts from trees. They are awake to trees now, and awake to their own possibilities and abilities in a new way as well. I'll continue to listen, record, think, and then return to the children with new provocations or intriguing materials. . . until they move on. . .

Sylvia C. Chard
Sun, 25 Jan 1998 02:30:34 -0700

It is my experience too that expectations about the kinds of investigations that projects involve are important. They help children to anticipate the satisfaction of finding out the answers to their own questions. The children look forward to interviewing experts and engaging them in discussion in the classroom or at a field site. In anticipation they enjoy planning the interview around their questions. However, I have found setting expectations to be quite a problem for some teachers who are doing their first project. The children may have no previous experience of a project, and the teacher also has to experience the evolution of the extended in-depth study process of the project for him or herself in order to be effective in setting up the expectations. It may only be in the second or third project that this anticipation can be achieved. Indeed, it can require quite a shift in the culture of the classroom in which rich project work is undertaken.

To illustrate the point, here are examples of discoveries made by a kindergarten teacher doing her first project. She describes her discovery of the power of discussion in her class. She did her first project last term on the topic of "food" and found the whole idea of children generating questions and then researching them an enormous challenge to her customary way of teaching. She built on her usual ways of working with children, e.g. an art and craft center for children to do printing in. She wrote: "Prints of fruits and vegetables were done in the art centers usually using the children's suggestions of 'What do you think oranges would look like?' to which I replied, 'How do you think we could find out?'. The most important thing I learned was to stop answering questions and let the children discover the answer themselves. Believe me, this was a hard habit to break. The most amazing thing is they had transcended covering mere art curriculum or doing simple craft experiences. They had questions that could be and were answered by themselves. Another amazing thing were the conversations they had with each other while they were working. There was an incredible amount of depth and knowledge in these conversations: to learn to do more listening versus talking-that was the challenge for me." Elsewhere this teacher reported: "I had arranged for a chef to come into class and he started the dialogue with the children by sending in a note and asking them to decide what they would like him to help them prepare. The children's discussion skills were becoming very good at this point, so they immediately wanted to 'discuss it' (their words).

Something I truly would not have believed if I hadn't witnessed it is the ability of children to hold a real discussion. Their discussions have evolved from all of them calling out at the same time to each respecting each other's right to speak. Only occasionally now do children raise their hands; usually it is the quieter ones and it is only then I have to involve myself in running the discussion. "I usually offer instead quiet and appreciative encouragement. My role has now more importantly become that of recorder. The children love to see their ideas listed, and there are always a few of the children who go and touch the words I write and read them. I have not actively taught the alphabet this year and the children have even surpassed where they would have been by mid-November in previous years."

Another point I noticed in this teacher's account: She describes the children taking field notes: "The field notes were detailed with drawings of the chef and the new experience of labeling the notes fascinated them. 'What do you think that starts with Mrs. B?' The children are not asking, 'What does that start with?' From their perspective it may be a matter of 'thinking' for Mrs. B. too! The shift is an important one. The climate of that classroom has changed and above all invites wondering as part of questioning and finding out what one needs to know. . ."

On Lesson Plans and Accountability

Tricia Pope
Sat, 9 Aug 1997 11:27:26 -0600

It's good to have it. In many of our school districts, we are required to make year plans, unit plans, and lesson plans, and forward them to our school principal/administrator in advance. Year plans are done before the first day of classes, unit plans are done before the units start, and lesson plans are done on a daily basis. Fully developed lesson plans are not always a requirement as the paper work becomes over-abundant, but teachers are expected to outline that which they plan to do that week. This is the part I have difficulty with-how to do a year plan with this approach. Yet, the child study center does make a year plan of which aspects of the curriculum that they plan to teach. They just incorporate this into the projects that are occurring. It sounds great in theory, but I'm not so sure how it works for them. I suppose one could have a year plan just as a guide, but not feel pressured to stick to it.

Barb Gallick
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 08:35:54 -0600

In our program we use a one-page sheet that is called "Highlights of our Day." We fill this sheet out each day at the lunch tables with the children so it is written after our day's activities and our morning planning time together. This sheet is placed on the parent table so all parents can read what happened that day when they pick up their children. The children and teachers both contribute statements to the highlights page so it reflects what the children remember as significant for the day, and the teachers make sure all curriculum areas that were covered that day are reflected also. We no longer do lesson plans in the traditional sense that have pre-planned activities. We do our planning with the children. The head teachers do create a topic web to help guide themselves, and we now create a topic web with the children at the beginning of a project.

Sylvia Chard
Sun, 07 Dec 1997 11:57:32 -0700

Projects typically last several weeks so a "project lesson plan" is not something that exists... However, that's not to say that no planning takes place in the context of a project (defined here as an in-depth study of a topic). Instead, any of the following may be useful: 1. plans for discussions with the children, whole class and small group. 2. weekly plans for any time project work is going on during the week. 3. day plans for days in which particular work is being completed or initiated. 4. plans for strands of work on different aspects of the project in progress 5. plans for wall displays of children's work, rubrics, or lists posted by the teacher, the contents of which have been derived or negotiated with the children. 6. plans for/in project folders for each child in which a record is kept of the work in progress or completed (kept by the children or the teacher depending on the age/capability of the children).

If you are asking about the preparation teachers have to do to be ready for the project work each day, then there may well be notes the teacher writes for herself to be well prepared to facilitate any of those items in the above list. In the second Practical Guide to the Project Approach (Scholastic) I have written five basic structural features of a project: discussion, field work, representation, investigation, and display. Different kinds of planning are required for each of these features as they function to facilitate the progress of the work of any project.

If you are planning a discussion, it is a good idea to have a plan of the issues you would like to discuss or information you would like to share with the children. Planning for a discussion would include anticipation of the possible contributions the children might make to the discussion, too. If you are planning to discuss on-going work with the children, this too could benefit from advanced planning. (Though of course your discussion with the children may go well beyond your initial plan.) In the case of field work, there is a good deal of planning to do: preliminary visit(s) to the field site, permission for access and from parents, preparing the receiving personnel, inviting volunteer and expert help, transportation arrangements (if necessary), photography, clip boards, etc. for field notes and sketches, and prior experience of the use of these tools, etc. etc. In the case of representations the children have to be aware of the range of different kinds of representation they can choose from to present the data they have collected. They also need some help with self-evaluation as they apply criteria of quality work to their representations. Planning is required here over the short and longer term.

Investigations require planning by the teacher and children around teacher's suggestions, children's initial intentions, materials, procedures, time commitment, self-evaluation criteria, etc. etc. Displays require advanced planning so the classroom walls can provide a constantly changing documentation of the progress of the project week by week.

On Webbing

Sylvia C. Chard
Tue, 23 Dec 1997 15:44:21 -0700

Hi, Lisa and others interested in project webs, I wanted to add another dimension to the talk about webs last week but I was unable to send messages to the list at that time. Now I'm back, so here is some of what I wanted to share. Lisa showed us webs of what the children could do, and did, in the course of their projects on "babies" and "fish." This is a very helpful use of webs in planning. I also encourage teachers to use a different kind of webin advance of the project. It can be very helpful to generate and sort ideas of what the children might know about the topic and what they might learn. I believe it is good for teachers to begin by using the web technique to reflect on their own general knowledge and experience as a basis for guiding the project from the beginning. I have described this kind of web in the first Practical Guide (Scholastic). This information web helps with early class and small group discussions and for anticipating the directions the children's interests might lead the investigation. This kind of web involves the teacher in a generative process which corresponds to the Reggio Emilia teachers' term "progettazione" or "projecting," in the sense of "anticipation" or predicting what the children might know, want to ask questions or find out about, and thinking of suggestions the teachers might make in support of the children in their investigations. I have attached a web of this type, on "babies," to this message. The category headings label groups of words associated semantically; e.g., What babies do, Parts of a baby, What you have to do to care for a baby, What babies eat, What babies wear, Who babies belong to, etc. etc. If you are unable to access the attachment I can try saving it in a different form or simply listing the categories of ideas within the email message. Let me know if you can't receive it. Once the teacher has made an information web of this kind, (s)he is in a good position to respond constructively to any stories the children might share in the first phase of a project, through telling, drawing, dramatic play, model making, block construction, etc. etc. Kindergarten children can enjoy looking at the words organized in a simple web and generating their representations.

One kindergarten teacher who did her first project this fall recounted how the children enjoyed sitting on the carpet and tracing their fingers over the words on the web and sounding them out for each other at odd times during the day. She wrote: "One day I was watching a boy sitting by the topic web and tracing his finger over the words then telling his friend that he could read. Slowly he said some of the words, sounding the letters out very carefully. His friend was amazed and said, "How do you do that?" The child very seriously replied, "It's in the sounds of the letters; if you know what the letters look like you can put the sounds together to make words." His amazed friend whispered, "Is it hard?" "Not really," the other child replied, "It just takes some practice."

P. Pope
Sat, 7 Feb 1998 21:33:08 -0700

Planning for grade 3's, I have come to a challenge when it comes to webbing. I like to make things look detailed and organized as best as I can. The dilemma that I have is how many sub-divisions to make. For instance, when we branch off from the main topic of HOMES, then go to "occupations," I would be inclined to branch off to 3 or 4 types of occupations such as "tradesmen" (plumber, construction workers, electrician, roofer, etc.), "legal" (lawyer, real estate agent). Although this would make the web look more organized and classified, I wonder how realistic it is when planning a web WITH children. If these classification words do not come up in our brainstorming, then is it fair for teachers to add them onto the web just to make it more organized, and perhaps less like a "spider." Also, how far should one branch out? I see that a web could go one infinitely as we went from homes to computers (an object within homes), and wondered how far we should branch off from "computers." Would anyone like to tell me about their webbing experiences themselves on various topics? How long do they usually take you? How do you organize the children to get them doing it?

In response to a question about involving children more in the organization of the web:

Sydney Gurewitz Clemens
Sat, 7 Feb 1998 21:42:07 -0800

Why not find the children who would like to reorganize what has been brainstormed and have them work (separately or together) on making alternative displays of the web, with the requirement that they must include everything in the original. You can invite them to cluster what they think fits together, and to compare the resulting hierarchies. . . this is a higher-order thinking skills task, and a great one for 8-9 year old children.

Cherie Rodriguez
Sun, 8 Feb 1998 17:59:57 -0500

. . . three topics have come up this week that I feel I can speak to. . .The first is webbing. When Sylvia Chard has come to our school in Hollywood, Maryland, she has done some webbing with our teachers using small post-its. This process works well with the children. Because we have benchmarks and outcomes that must be covered in our first- and second- grade multi-age classrooms, the process of brainstorming with the children on a web with post-its, and then grouping the post-its into classifications, helps us to see where the children's experience and knowledge lies and how much we can insert our curriculum mandates into the project. A final draft of the web after moving the post-its into categories with the children can be displayed throughout the work on the project. All of the many ideas that they give may not be explored thoroughly, but I can get an idea of how important each idea is to the children through their input and explanations.


My class size is 25 children-12 second graders and 13 first. I have inclusion children in my class. There is no full-time help, but I have great support from resource people. Why did you ask how I keep a permanent record of the children's input on a web? I can think of some ways to do that, but don't understand why it would be important at the beginning phase of a project. The children could write about the webbing process in their work logs. They could tell in writing or dictation what they contributed to the web and what areas of the topic look interesting to them. They could go on to supply a plan of investigation. We do a lot of written planning in our program, so this would work with our children. A teacher that I work closely with used post-its as children worked in pairs to make webs this month and had success. I have found that webbing is a useful tool to open minds and get involvement. I haven't used the process for accountability or assessment. Does that help?

On Field Sites and Field Work

Margaret Brooks
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 08:36:27 -0700

Hello again to all other project enthusiasts. Here in Alberta we are beginning to see the first signs of spring. The snow has almost gone and the ground is starting to thaw. Many of our garden centers are just setting up for the rush of eager gardeners getting prepared for the Victoria Day holiday on May 20th. This is traditionally the weekend everyone plants out the garden here. After May 20th we have less chance of frost damaging our plants. However, the children in our centre (two classes of twenty, four- and five-year-olds) have been studying plants for a while. One of our parents is a horticulturist and has built us an indoor growing house. For the past month she has brought in a variety of spring bulbs at various stages of development. The children have drawn and painted and kept records of these changes and comparisons. After six months of snow and no greenery they were real symbols of hope that spring might eventually arrive. The children have become very interested in plants and so we are in the process of developing a project around several specific aspects of plants and growing. It is not as easy as we first thought it might be, and I hope to share some of the problem solving both staff and children have been wrestling with as we progress. Today I wanted to share a story about our field visit with you because I know that this is the time of year, here anyway, that many classes go out on field visits. I was particularly impressed with the teacher in Phoenix and her multiple visits and preparation for planting saguaro. Not all field work is as thoughtful or successful, yet as an important element of project work it is worth giving more thought to. I hope my story will spark some discussion. (Sorry it's a little long.)

We planned a visit to a fairly large greenhouse and garden shop, and the horticulturist volunteered to talk with the greenhouse staff before our visit. I told her we wanted to collect information that would allow us to not only take better care of the plants we had started in our class and how to plant out our garden when the time came, but we also wanted to get a sense of how a garden shop and greenhouse operated so that we might be able to set up our own in a socio-dramatic context within our classroom. We have found that collecting information is very much like going on a shopping expedition; it is much easier, and more productive, to be an informed consumer with six children than it is to herd a group of twenty children to pick up a grocery list. We are lucky to have a pool of parents and students who are used to doing field work with us, so we divided the children into groups of six with one adult. The children had many questions to ask and, after two years experience of collecting field notes with us, were all prepared with clipboards, pencils, markers, and watercolors. Unfortunately the personnel at the greenhouse had had many years of experience of herding groups of kindergarten children through in half-hour sessions. Our tour guide had taken a course on "edutainment" and kept up a fast pace lest the children got bored. She bombarded the children with information, and to keep their interest she focused on the novel and exotic. Holding up an aloe vera plant, she asked one of her few questions, "Where does this plant grow?" "My grandma has one." volunteered a child. "It grows in Arizona," they were told. "My grandma went there once," volunteered the same child, desperately trying to make some connection. Our children tried hard to sidetrack our tour guide with questions and comments. Most of them eventually gave up and as I scanned my usually attentive class I could see: three girls holding a very quiet discussion around a display of bulbs, another group examining a spider, and someone's toy car being surreptitiously passed around for inspection. Many others had started to wander off, and we desperately tried to round them up and refocus them. After our tour we politely thanked them and asked if we could spend some time just looking around in small groups. They assured us that there was nothing more to see, but if we really wanted to it was OK.

Each group went off to examine a different part of the building. My group headed for the garden tools section. What a selection! I didn't know there were so many tools. One boy found five different kinds of spades, each with a specific purpose, a different name and shape, and a different price. Someone else found a range of tools that all fitted on one handle and spent much time trying them all out and guessing what they would all be used for. We found that there was everything from tiny watering cans to giant hoses and sprinklers for watering plants; each had a different way of operating. We found a sales clerk and asked them firstly more about the tools, then all about their job. The children then set to work to draw what they felt was important, and copied down many names, labels, and prices. My group was scattered over the floor, drawing intently, when the tour guide came past. She was amazed at their concentration and the detail in their drawings. She came back twenty minutes later and they were still at it. This time she stopped and said she had never seen anyone do this before. I explained that we had found that the process of drawing helped the children focus on detail, and the drawings were very useful when we returned to the class because the children referenced them when they set up their own garden store or made models. She told us that she had received "thank you" drawings from kindergarten classes, but they usually just showed a picture of the playpark the children had played in after the tour or her dog who had been around to pet. Never tools! Our other small groups had similar experiences and together we collected a huge range of information that was detailed and relevant. There are many, many ways of doing field work, but I worry that sometimes field work has tended to be seen as a field trip-"trip" being the operative word. Looking forward to hearing some field work stories and tips.

Eileen Tracy Borgia
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 11:34:56 -0600

. . . Another of our tasks when doing project work is to educate the hosts of the field site, and I was impressed with your tactful way of teaching about project work. As Sylvia and Lilian help us to see, a field experience can be very useful in Phase 2, as a part of the investigation, rather than where it would be found in more traditional approaches, either at the beginning or as a culmination activity. Best wishes for some terrific gardening!

Sylvia Chard
Sun, 26 Oct 1997 16:35:24 -0700

I have responded to individual messages before in relation to the first phase of a project. Today I would like to try a response to this message about some features of the second phase. At 10:58 AM 10/26/97 you, Cynthia, wrote: I am currently in my second year of teaching and I have been very interested in the Project Approach. Right now, we are doing a unit on food. We just visited Smitty's grocery store last week, and we are in the process of making our own grocery store in the classroom. My problem is this: I know I want to do this, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Do I need to just let the children take over? How do I know when I need to step in? I don't want to take any ownership away from the children. Any insight would be really helpful to me at this time! Thanks. Cynthia

First, however, it would help to know how old the children are. Meanwhile, I am going to respond as if your children are between the ages of 4 and 7. I hope I will be clear enough in my suggestions to enable readers to be able to adapt what I am saying to apply to older or younger children.

  1. Field work follow-up. You wrote: We just visited Smitty's grocery store last week, and we are in the process of making our own grocery store in the classroom. This is a wonderful way to follow up a field visit.
  2. As the teacher, your preparation for this process will involve thinking of all the possible things the children might do as part of "setting up the store." This preparation will be done outside the classroom between each class session and will draw on your observation of the children's growing interest and what they want to accomplish. The children will need to: plan the construction (review and discuss their field experience and field notes), collect materials (brainstorm what they might need to construct a store in the classroom), make furniture, equipment, goods, etc. (stock the place), take roles (what people do in a grocery store, why they are there or go there), agree on procedures and sequences ("event knowledge" and "script knowledge," Nelson), hear stories about shopping (children's literature), tell stories about shopping (continue to share their own experiences), practice skills needed to make purchases and take store worker roles, continue to elaborate their understanding, invite parents to help, etc. etc. Make a (on chart paper) web of all these ideas so you can keep track of what is happening and what needs to be provided, etc.
  3. You wrote: Do I need to just let the children take over? I think that would be an unworkable abdication of your responsibility as a teacher. Your job is to facilitate the construction of the grocery store. You will draw on all the skills and knowledge you know the children currently have. You will also arrange for the children to acquire further knowledge with your help through stories, visiting experts to be interviewed in the classroom, a second visit (maybe) to the grocery store, parents'involvement, etc., etc. Once you embark on several weeks of grocery store construction and dramatic play, your work is to support the children, enabling them to realize their intentions and bring them into being. Documentation of the main achievements, conversations, ideas, etc. after each session helps a great deal.
  4. You wrote: How do I know when I need to step in? You step in right away, alongside the children. What does this look like? It means having a (mostly brief, depending on the age of the children) whole group discussion with the children at the beginning (planning) and end (debriefing, review) of every project time period. It means having some discussion with small groups of children who are willing and able to take responsibility for particular tasks needed for the construction and running of the store. It means encouraging children to talk with each other about what is needed, to be on hand with children as they construct particular parts of the equipment or design the overall layout, or engage in role play. It means continuing to collect and post questions which can be answered through phone calls, interviews, book research, etc. If you have a large class, it may be that some children are painting, drawing, and making one or two small constructions in shoe boxes or larger boxes or working in the sand tray to replicate a grocery store scene, or playing roles, or looking at pictures and words in the books you have provided to help the children research their topic.
  5. You wrote: I don't want to take any ownership away from the children. In the way I have described things happening in your classroom, any child who wants to be involved can be. Children who are painting pictures of the people in the store will be providing a review of what people do in the store, those looking at the books will bring their new or elaborated understanding to the construction and dramatic play, those working on the plan or the actual construction of shelves and counters will be able to share their work at the group time too.

You and the children share ownership of the whole enterprise. Each child has ownership of whatever activity they are pursuing with your support, and groups have ownership over their activity. At group time, individuals and groups can ask other children in the class for their suggestions and ideas. Children can help others with problem solving and the elaboration of the whole scenario of grocery store role play. (By the way, especially at first, some children may not want or need to be involved and could be painting or drawing other things or writing or doing unsupervised practice tasks, if they are older.) When project work is complex and elaborate (built up slowly by children taking individual roles or working in pairs or small groups), the energy invested builds motivation and ownership. So long as the teacher doesn't do the work FOR the children (i.e., set up the store for them ahead of time and tell them how to sequence their actions in the store; in other words, direct and instruct all the activity), then the children will recognize the teacher's role as a supporting and guiding one. If the teacher supports the activity in this way, the children's sense of ownership of the process and its opportunities for development can be sustained and enhanced throughout the project. Classroom wall displays of children's work (including photos, labeled, captioned) helps build up the information resources too. I hope this helps. Let us know what happens! Best wishes, Sylvia

Candy Ganzel
Tue, 28 Oct 1997 19:40:40 -0500

We are still working on our Fire Department project. (I teach kindergarten.) We have been to the fire station for our field work. The firemen were great!! They were concerned in the a.m. about what we wanted to do. When the p.m. came, they were ready and waiting!! The children did a great job making many field notes. I took about 15 minutes to explain my expectations to the parents going along. This is well worth it. It makes the field work the children's, not the adults'. This week and last we are giving our reports to the class about what each of the groups found out. I gave each group about 20 minutes two days in a row to show everyone in their group their field notes and decide what are the most important things to share. The children do a great job of reporting. I let them take on the role of being in charge. One little boy named Kenny did a great job with this. Usually when it comes time for questions I have to help control it. He just took over. He asked "Are there any questions?" then he took their questions and many times he would ask someone else in the group to answer. It is great seeing their true personalities come out. I will write more about the reports as we finish.

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