When I was at NCTE this past fall in Chicago, I had the pleasure to attend a session Renee Dinnerstein was presenting in. The title of her session with Kathy Collins and Matt Glover was Using Inquiry Projects to Nurture Thoughtful and Confident Learners. Renee is a retired teacher from New York City. Renee spoke about project work and how it begins with teachers making an anticipatory web. She justified anticipatory webs because teachers are prepared as they think ahead about possibilities. She also cautioned the room by reminding us not everything in an anticipatory web has to be done.
Project work has three phases. The first being gathering prior knowledge as the teacher plants seeds for student thinking. She encouraged creating the web as a living document that continues to grow as the project grows. Post it notes allow movement in growth in written form as categories are organized. Why hadn't I thought of that before? I don't know how many charts or versions I have made over the years as projects, learning, and thinking have changed. The charting in this phase is extended by asking what the class is wondering and Renee suggests organizing their wonderings into the same categories from the gathering of prior knowledge.
Phase two involves getting answers and more information. This can be obtained by visiting places or people, observing, and interviewing an expert. By doing these three things drawing and writing become more sophisticated. Phase three is a culmination of what the students now know. This would be gathering, assessing, and showing new learning. It would involve students sharing what they have done and learned.
I have continued to learn from Renee. She is the author of the blog - Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration, and Play. When I read Renee's posts I am inspired, motivated and reflecting all within a matter of minutes. I use to work in a building where her examples of project work were the center of learning. I miss those days and often wonder how do I get back to that. I think this is a question many of us are wondering as education continues to change and we reach out to find like minded people to foster our own learning and the work we do with students. Please stop by Renee's blog no matter what grade you are teaching. I know you will be inspired and find something to stretch your own educational journey.