In order to successfully intertwine project and challenge based learning into the student experience, we have to be aware of the nuances that can make or break your projects.
"Embrace the suck."
"Failure is our greatest teacher."
"It's not the destination. It's the journey."
Yep we get all of that, but kids don't arrive on the big yellow buses with much ability to handle that. The best way I can describe the success I have found managing projects from a teacher's role is that is like cooking macaroni and cheese.
You've gotta regulate the heat or these kids will boil allover the stove.
Circulate and pay close attention to the group dynamics. Look for both frustration with the task and frustration with one another. In both cases, get kids to articulate exactly what the root of the frustration is. This is not only good for them but it helps you dissect where the sticking point is and if the frustration is with a classmate, have them tell the classmate exactly what the sticking point is. Simply telling them to figure it out is just lazy.
As you are watching all of this unfold, constantly re-evaluate your plans and whether the kids are ever going to make it to the goal. Give hints when necessary and pump the brakes when a full stop is needed. We want them to adapt as they work on the project; sometimes we need to adapt as they work on the project.
To avoid kids being overwhelmed, help them take that big task and chunk it into do-able bites. Add a little seasoning sometimes to make those bites more appealing. Finally, watch that burner and turn down the heat when you need to or the whole thing will just boil over into a big mess and not much to show for the effort in the end.
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