Social Sundays: End of Year Projects

The end of the school year is just around the corner (for some us sooner than later).  There's lots of content and testing still to come.  It's also a time when my students have seen just about every one of my creative tricks and activities.  We've had gallery walks, created newspapers, completed notes, analyzed primary sources, built social classes, evaluated data, compared maps, built timelines, and...  So, as we get ready to close out the year, I look to turning over the content almost entirely to the students.  We have been building to this all year in my student-centered classroom.  I am taking the training wheels off and letting them ride it alone.

I have more freedom this year than in past years to let students design the end of the year.  I am giving students two broad choices to select from and then choices will be narrowed down from within those options:
  • Option 1: Revisit and dig deep - Students can choose to take a topic that we have already looked at and revisit it.  For example, the World War I social scientist project ends with questions for further research.  A student might select to take one of those questions to research and find more out about.  The student would present their new research for their end of year project.
  • Option 2: What we missed - How many times do you think if only we had more time?  Whether it is a current social issue or connections with the past, there is only so much time in any given school year.  I am lucky to not have to rush through topics but at the same time, there are always topics we don't get to.  Rather than just selecting one that I think is interesting, students become the teachers.  I print a list of "what we missed" topics for students to explore.  Project guidelines are fairly broad.  Every project must include an essay portion and a creative part.  I have more than 16 ready to use creative projects for any topic that students can use for guidelines or they can develop their own.  
Whether students choose option 1 or 2, we have workshops 3 days a week to work on projects.  On the other days we are exploring current events or having whole class activities.  By the end of the year, students are comfortable in the lab atmosphere for projects.  I give deadlines for parts of the project and provide structured ways for students to share with each other and get feedback.  The process is as important as the final product.

The projects are outstanding, but the biggest reward is seeing the students support each other's learning.  They have truly taken charge, and it is amazing!  How I will miss them next year?!  

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.



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