Notes from a Brainstorming Session of Teachers Beginning Project Work

Gail Gordon, Kathy Steinheimer, Cindy Rocke, and Judy Harris Helm
Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center, Peoria, Illinois, 1996

A group of pre-kindergarten through first grade teachers met to discuss what they had learned from their first attempts at project work. They brainstormed the following list of ideas:

We learned that we can have more than one project going on at a time, and that we can have projects in which just a few children are involved.
We can select and assign children to do a project and get them involved in more challenging activities, even if the rest of the class is not ready for experiences at the same level.
We can have children do more sharing and appreciating of each others' work. During the sharing of information about each others' project, children can begin to understand the idea of growing and learning, how they can get better at doing something, and how they can get new ideas of things to do.
We can make more class books about the projects which show the processes we followed and the things that we have learned. These class books can be checked out and taken home so parents can see what their children are learning and can become more involved in what their children are doing in the classroom.
We can provide more varied media, including clay, wire, and more scrap materials. These materials can be available in the classroom on a regular basis so that children become familiar with them before attempting to use them to represent their learning. We can have more recyclable materials available for children's use.
We can do more constructions as part of our projects, so that the whole school can watch our progress. We can make our constructions in a prominent place (such as in the central court or hallway).
We can help children select drawings or parts of their drawings and show them on the overhead projector, so others can see their representations.
We can do more pencil work with children and provide clipboards so children can draw and write comfortably in a variety of places.
We can spend more time looking at things and talking about what children are observing about how things are made, shaped, etc.
We can do more mural or other large-scale cooperative representations instead of individual work all the time.
We can teach, during other scheduled activities, some of the skills helpful in project work, including generating lists of things needed or lists of things to do, assigning jobs to different children and/or asking for volunteers, modeling questioning and wondering, and providing practice in construction skills like taping, stapling, building.
We can assign more jobs to children for preparation of materials and activities in the classroom, so they become accustomed to independent action.
We can provide more pictures and photos of real objects and place real objects and artifacts in art and block areas, and other areas where children try to represent objects.
We can teach younger children how to request help from older children when carrying out tasks which require some skills the younger children don't yet have, like cutting large things or tracing their work onto transparencies.
We can provide more reference books with pictures for children to study.
We can display more work in progress in the classroom for other children to see; then, we can take it down and continue working on it.
We can do more drawing of our building and our environment to heighten children's awareness and interest in their surroundings.
We can share more of our project approach experiences with other teachers, so that we support each other and experience more of the excitement of learning.

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