My 8th graders students have started an independent project that I used to do with my 10th graders as a cumulative project. It's a cool project that I found at Outta Ray's Head years ago. For the most part, I've kept it as it is, but I have tweaked a few things here and there, including adding a reflective journal, a graphic organizer for my visual learners, more specific rubrics, and a series of small deadlines to keep them on track. It might sound like a lot, but truly the core project is the same. I've added as many tools as I can over the years to make this more accessible for my students.
I'm a little nervous about doing this project, as I know it takes at least 40 hours to complete, and our time is running short. For a few of my students, this is going to be too much to handle, but the rest of them have been dying to do a project like this--they just don't realize it.
I warmed up their brains to the idea of it last week, asking them to brainstorm on possible interests they have related to some of the themes. I presented the project to them Friday, and very few of them had questions. Today's the day--and the next few days--when students plan and try to wrap their minds about what they need to do.
So far, I'm impressed. All the students I talked to today had some pretty amazing topics that they were interested in researching. A few of them were having difficulty seeing that the center of the project is a theme, and the research paper is only a component and not the center. However, the more we brainstormed together, the more they started to develop the whole project.
In the next few weeks I'll be incredibly frustrated with many of my [unmotivated] students, but I know I will also enjoy the enthusiasm the rest of them will carry as they demonstrate their writing and thinking skills on their own terms.
It's going to be a wild ride!