Thursday, June 9, 2016

Giving Students More Choice: a 20% Time Reflection

By Kim Miklusak

The American Lit team did 20% Time projects with our students again this year.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept behind 20% Time projects or would like to read more about our reflections on last year, please check out posts here.

Using last year's experiences and reflections from ourselves and the students, we switched some things up this year.  Instead of having one day a week or every other week be dedicated to the project--especially with testing in spring--we had one of our five units be focused on this project, starting 4th quarter after state testing was over yet before AP exams began.  This allowed the students to have the same experiences with no gaps as we found the switching back and forth between units to be distracting.

Students still went through the same processes this year, including most of the same materials.  However, getting into the project this year seemed much smoother because of the two mini-units we did leading into it.  First, after our unit on Sula, students found non-conformists of their choosing, did mini-research on him/her, and then created an Adobe Voice project to share with the class.  The next unit was an American Dream unit where students identified a community with which they associated, did mini-research, summarized articles, wrote a narrative, and interviewed someone else in that community.  This provided the framework for so many of the skills used in 20% Time that the unit itself required little instruction!

That was another reflection we had on last year: easing the transition into finding their topics.  Again we played the same videos, did the same surveys, and discussed the same topics, but everything seemed to flow smoother!  This year's projects included topics covering mental health and school stress; providing useful resources for teen moms; debates on immigration and free college through the lens of current political candidates; investigations of the effects of curfew laws on teens; and explanations on how and why students wear hijabs, including a station where students were able to try some on.

Students from Mrs. Kim's class
Ultimately, I think this project is more support that students need to have more say in how they reach their targets.  I can't think of a student who asked me if an article was good or not, for example, or how long their project had to be.  They knew their own purpose, and they knew what steps they needed to take to get there.  There are definitely more things we can continue to refine, but I'm thankful for our students' work and have enjoyed seeing all of their projects.

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