Sunday, March 30, 2008


Our final day of planning worked out so smoothly. Our constant meeting on the project ignited a natural flow each time we meet. The excitement of the project is increasing as well. We are beginning to see the impact the project can have on the students and the team. Our abilities as educators is increasing and our students will be all the better for it.

This meeting focused on the selection of a question and brainstorming of products to assess. Although we only created two questions the previous day, one of our team mates thought of a third question. The question was perfect and we made a unanimous decision to use it. The question is: What can NWC students do to improve the selection and/or quality of food in the cafeteria?

As we brainstormed product ideas, we came up with additional questions to answer. I completely forgot to mention that these questions can be subquestions for the students to address. I will have to mention it at our next meeting. The brainstorming of questions also overlapped with thinking about resources we had and needed.

The discussion was so effective my entire whiteboard was full of ideas. There is still more ideas to come since some of us knew we would think of other items. Our next meeting will focus on selecting the final products and begin to manage the process. Outside of the meeting, we will each start to create rubrics for the final products.

Below is a snapshot of our meeting. For detail documents of the meeting, check out

Two Driving Questions

The brainstorming for questions was a very productive meeting. It began with discussing the big picture. I knew this was a crucial step now so that we could all be on the same page. We are using the model for planning designed by Buck Institute for Education ( The process includes five basic principals:
1. Begin with the end in mind
2. Craft the driving question
3. Plan the assessment
4. Map the project
5. Manage the process

After we completed the overview, we brainstormed topics we wanted to cover that related to food. We came up with several topics to create the driving question. The discussion was wonderful with everyone thinking of more ideas from another person's idea. Key points we considered is the food offered at the school; food offered at other schools; healthy alternatives; culture influences on food; vending machine; cost; eating disorders; services to utilize at the school (horticultural class) and fundraiser food.

From this list of topics we started to construct possible driving questions. The list resulted in two driving questions with possible other questions sent to the team recorder. The questions are: 1. How can NWC improve the nutritional needs of its students? 2. How can NWC students do to alter the food options available?

We adjourned the meeting discussing the two online tools we will use to keep a record online of the project. The two tools are and Below is a snapshot video of the meeting. I hope it is helpful to those who wish to do a project on their own or with a team of teachers.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Driving Question

We had a really great meeting that I taped. Unfortunately, home duties call so I have to postpone writing to tomorrow. Look for details on how we narrowed down the food topic to three possible driving questions and a video seeing the process.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Brainstorming Meeting Part 3

It is such an exciting day! We were able to narrow down the topic to food since it can tie back to all of our standards and interest the students (see picture of screenshot of concept map above). We still have to focus in on what we want our students to answer and products they must produce. This will be our focus for tomorrow's meeting.

The discussion was the best part of our meeting today. Initially, we came up with a list of 12 different topics that relate to two or more of our standards. As we began to discuss the different topics, we started to remove topics that did not meet enough standards or ones that would not be of interest to the students. Near the end of our discussion, it seemed to be that the decision would be out of travel Agency, oil and toxic environment. However, as we discussed toxic environment, we chatted about the excess disposal of Styrofoam containers. This brought us to a discussion about food.

This topic got a lot of interaction. We talked about how much the students talk about taste of the food in the cafeteria. Discussion also proceed to discuss how toxic the food is and the cost of eating healthier. Our discussion on food got so much excitement we added it to the list to make a vote.

The voting was very interesting. All of our personalities came out and what I needed to provide as a leader. One teacher wanted to keep discussing when it was time to vote. Their personality is to make a decision to talk out loud. Since I knew this about them, I didn't take it as an attempt to not wrap up the discussion. Another teacher really wanted to know the end result. They wanted to know the specific product their subject will have for the project. They didn't want to vote until this was discussion. I promised to get them products if they agree to vote on a topic. From my experience, a project can be created through thinking of products first or thinking of topics to meet the standards. However, it is really easy to create the products after you pick a topic. In previous planning of personal projects, I sometimes had a hard time finding a topic or a standard when I thought of only products first. I didn't want our team to fall into this trap.

After handling these issues, we were able to move forward and choose food as the topic of choice. I made a mental note of only giving the team a view of one step at a time is not helpful to those who need a big picture. I did this because in most of my experience I worked with people who needed very specific details and I am stronger at seeing a big picture. Therefore, I have worked on my detail skills and approach from the aspect of step by step.

I should have not assumed that my colleagues were detail people only. I should have immediately presented the situation as an overview with snapshots of the details. It is my fault for not starting off the entire discussion with walking them through one of my own projects. As the leader of this project, I will correct this mishap to help our future move smoothly and with all parties having more of a comfort. Tomorrow, before we proceed, I will walk them through one of my project planning forms completed and explain step by step how I created it. Hopefully, this will help the big picture people like me and people who needs details.

The brainstorming details was placed in a concept map on, a website suggested in Re-Inventing Project-Based Learning. If you would like to see the map, please email me at with your username from the website. I will add you as a friend that can view anything we put in a concept map.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brainstorming Meeting Part 2

Today was a really great day. I can't wait to actually write about the details. I am ran out of time to do it today. However, tomorrow I will talk about the brainstorming and the selection of the topic. Selection of the topic is the focus of our meeting tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Brainstorming Meeting

The first day of planning the project is now complete. It was a great session and I am excited about continuing our brainstorming tomorrow. Four out of the five members of the team was able to meet and everyone was ready to discuss the project.

We opened up with an activity to help us think about what it is like to work in a group. We shared memories of a group experience including what worked well in the group and what could be improved. This is an exercise I learned from a class I am currently taking entitled "Managing the Classroom Environment". Completing warm-up activities helps to connect members as well as provide a basis for the task to complete. This activity lead us into things we need to remember as we work through the planning process.

We reviewed the standards in each of our subject areas that are what we feel all students really need to remember. This lead us to the brainstorming of where in real life do we see the standards we are asking the students to know. Due to the warm-up activity and shorten time to meet (30 minutes), we only got a small start on the brainstorming session.

This portion of the session was the greatest learning experience for me. I have never worked with other teachers to coordinate a project. I know all teachers have a different view of what a project is but we also have different methods for creating our projects. It was great to see multiple views of a team as well as the assistance of people.

To get into the brainstorming session, I asked the teachers to think where in real life do their standards exist. This is a question the book "Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age" recommends to help think of project ideas and also a suggestion by Buck Institutes manual. It is a method I have used over the last year and a half to plan projects but found it hard to explain how to do.

As we started to work on brainstorming, we went by each subject. For English we discussed how there is nothing in life that doesn't relate to the standards. Students will complete the standards at the beginning through research or writing a proposal or just summarizing their thoughts as well. For science, we discussed the wastefulness of oil. This was when the conversation was of the most learning experience for me.

Deann, the science teacher, expressed how she really didn't understand what we were brainstorming. She related her experience to when she plans she comes up with a theme. I explained how a project can be a part of a theme but the greater aspect of a project answering a problem that doesn't have a necessary right or wrong answer. To create it the problem, it is helpful to think of problems in real life. I shared my experience at a previous job where I had a problem with a customer's telephone service. My solution to their problem required various knowledge elements, i.e. the things we want our students to know, but it was in essence solving a problem.

This example didn't help her that much. However, teammate, Debra helped by relating the process to hypothesis and then execution. She also explained a project she did with students and how she wanted to do one where the students create travel brochures. I exclaimed as I explained how the book gives the same example. I made copies of the pages for her and it became a discussion we continued throughout the day. I thanked Debra for her analogy and shared how happy I was to again work as a group.

We wrapped up the discussion by me explaining how a project is very front end loaded with us creating a question, assessments/deadlines and products. Ben also offered to take a poll of the students interest to see if an idea of a project will surface from the students.

When we work on brainstorming tomorrow, I will help the group understand the process by giving an example. We will then spend the majority of the time narrowing our ideas to one specific topic that will also lead us to think of all the products we want the students to produce for assessment. On Wednesday, we should be able to complete our project sketch and asset map.

Below is a video of the Keynote presentation we went through as a group:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Great Opportunity

Last night, I attended a conference call with the authors Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss, "Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age". It was a great conference call and an opportunity of a lifetime. I got clarification about project-based learning. I received confirmation that many things I am doing and have done are on track.

The authors ended the conversation with a request of feedback of the book. The book is wonderful. It provides a lot of examples of projects from the around the world. Of course, I put my foot in my mouth and said I really would have liked to see a chapter of seeing the experience of a project by a teacher from start to finish. This prompted the writers to ask me to blog about my own project. This was perfect timing because I was just starting to plan a project with other teachers for the first time. I have done a few projects in my own subject but this will be my first time to do a project with other teachers.

Today, I talked with my team mates about getting their permission to document our experience on line and use their first name. They quickly agreed. I also checked to see if we could meet for 20 minutes every day after spring break. I will continue to blog anytime I think of things for the meetings with team mates. However, look for the results of our meetings starting March 24.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Setting The Standards

Today's meeting had to be shorter than normal. We had a lot of items to discuss outside of the project. We are also a little tired from parent conferences from the previous evening. We have another parent conference tomorrow. With this in mind, we just quickly covered the standards we thought students needed the most from our individual content area.

1. Interpret and Communicate - Interpreting is the process of recognizing patterns in collected data by making inferences, predictions, or conclusions. Communicating is the process of describing, recording, and reporting experimental procedures and results to others. Communication may be oral, written, or mathematical and includes organizing ideas, using appropriate vocabulary, graphs, other visual representations, and mathematical equations.
2. The Interdependence of Organisms - Interrelationships and interactions between and among organisms in an environment is the interdependence of organisms. This includes biotic factors as well as the cooperation and competition of organisms and population dynamics.

Demonstrate the use of mental maps to organize information about people, places, and environments in a spatial context.
2. Explain how culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions and how these perceptions change over time.

Identify the main idea and supporting details by producing summaries of text.
Draw inferences such as conclusions, generalizations, and predictions, and support them with text evidence and personal experience.

Algebra I
1. Calculate the slope of a line using a graph, an equation, two points or a set of data points
Develop the equation of a line and graph linear relationships given the following: slope and y-intercept, slope and one point on the line, two points on the line, x-intercept and y-intercept, a set of data points.

You might be curious to know who the people are that I am working with to create the project.
My team mates are Deann, the science instructor; Ben, the English teacher; Mary, the English teacher for special education; and Debra, social studies.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How It All Started

The last 9 weeks of school is the hardest. I only have a few weeks before it is time for the state test. My and the student's anxiety is high as we focus on "the test". Most of this time is devoted to reviewing test taking strategies and reteaching any standards they still do not understand.

Once this test is done, there is still a month left of school. It is really difficult to keep the student's attention at this point. The summer rays shining through the classroom grabs everyone's attention. As a teacher, I want to prepare them for the year. As a student, I want to get on to summer fun. It is a hard battle. Often the one who endures is the one who wins.

Last year, I started a movie project in the second semester. All of my math courses (Algebra I and Geometry) had to answer the question, "How can you teach linear equations or principals of triangles in a way high school students could relate?" The students had to create a movie that would teach the math concepts. It was my biggest project attempt. There were some pitfalls but overall I had never seen the students more engaged. The filming took place during the last 9 weeks of school. It was the most pleasant nine weeks. I thought I was in heaven. The students actually wanted to come to school and stay after to film. They managed themselves and I looked on in amazement on why I hadn't did this sooner.

The success of the project made me want to do it again the following year. Unlike my first two years in teaching, I am now apart of a team. Students are assigned to one of three teams of core curriculum teachers. The students get to know each other and transition to high school life. As teachers, we share the same 90 minute planning period. We utilize this time to complete individual plans but to also discuss strategies as a team.

Today at our weekly team meeting, I shared with my colleagues my success with the movie project. I suggested we attempt to do a joint project with a possible product of a movie. The subject areas to cover include Algebra I, Geography, Environmental Science and English. The team agreed to jump on board. At the next meeting we are to discuss one or two standards from each curriculum area that students really need understand.