WE HAVE (ANOTHER) SNOW DAY HERE IN NORTHERN NEW JERSEY, SO I FIGURED I WOULD TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO SHARE SOMETHING I DO IN MY CLASSROOM THAT I LOVE! i teach 6th grade math, and while there are endless standards to teach, i find a lot of value in incorporating quarterly projects. here's an overview of what the four projects entail:
"million dollar project": students have $1,000,000 to spend on a house, college education, car, vacation, and any extras they would like. they need to keep track of their budget on their expense tracking sheet, where they show the subtraction and any remaining money. students submit their project (with pictures of everything) on either a poster, packet, or google slides presentation.
"math in every career": students choose a career they would love to have. if they're not sure, i encourage them to take this free career test to give them ideas! then, they need to find (and cite!) their average annual salary and do a salary breakdown, which deducts taxes and determines how much they make each month. they must include a summary explaining what their career is and why they want it. lastly, they need to come up with five detailed ways math is used in their jobs!
"design it": this project comes after our unit on area and perimeter. in this project, they must create either a mall, amusement park, or zoo and include the area and perimeter of everything. (my rubric includes specifics...and students have the option to work with a partner, which means they have higher expectations!) they also need to come up with the way their guests will pay, whether it's per ride/animal attraction/food court restaurant or if they will pay a base cost at the entrance. students love this project because they can be super creative!
"sell it": okay, i admit, i don't always get to this one because the end of the year is nuts with all of the trips, field days, etc. but..."sell it" is a group project where everyone has a specific job. they need to come up with an inventive item and figure out ways to sell it! the project incorporates supply and demand, accurate pricing, salesman techniques, and a creative design aspect.
to check out my project explanations, rubrics, and more, visit my teachers pay teachers store here!
Q: how much time do you give the students to work on the projects?
A: generally about 3-4 weeks, normally with only a few days spent in class working. one major part of utilizing these projects is to teach my students time management skills. normally, they have a hard time with this concept during the first marking period, but make improvements as the year goes on. having these projects is also super helpful if i need to call out last minute! it makes for easy substitute plans because the students already know what the requirements are!
Q: the curriculum is so rigorous and there are so many standards to teach. how do you feel like there's time to do projects?
A: i think it's a balance, really. as i mentioned, we only spend a couple of days in class working on projects; the rest is completed at home. i've also found a really effective way of presenting projects, which i will talk about below. the biggest reason i love doing these four projects is because of the transferable skills it teaches the kids. they learn time management, collaboration, creativity, higher order thinking skills, organization, presentation skills, the ability to advocate for themself if they need help, and punctuality. one other huge reason why i'm okay utilizing projects is because they include a lot of the standards! for example, the career project is done after our unit on ratios and rates, which is focused on in the project when calculating how much they make per year, per month, and how much they lose for taxes. it also incorporates computing with decimals throughout the salary breakdown! lots of benefits to including projects :)
Q: i want to do projects too, but my students don't have access to a computer at home. what should i do?
A; many of mine don't either! i teach in a school where approximately 60% of our students are living in poverty, which means they might not have technological resources at home. here's the thing, though: with the amount of time given in class, they should have time to get everything they need from the computers. the rest can be done on a poster or packet! i purposely don't require the projects to be submitted via computer because of this hurdle.
Q: how do you present the projects?
A: i do a gallery walk! read on!...
when i started teaching, i would have my students present their projects in front of the class, one by one. while this teaches solid presentation skills, i felt like the cons outweighed the pros. too often, it would take upwards of a week to get through all of the projects and it just seemed repetitive. so, i started incorporating gallery walks! here's how i do it:
i explain to my students what my definition of a gallery walk is and what my expectations are. my gallery walks mean that on the first day of presentations, half of the class will be "presenters"; the other half will be "viewers". the presenters set up their station around the perimeter of the classroom. if they have a packet or poster, they set it up. if they have a slides presentation, they simply log into a computer and open it up! the first day, the presenters share their projects, while the viewers go around to learn about them. the second day, the roles are reversed.
i understand that this is giving up a lot of my control, so we have a little prep work. as part of their grading rubric, their behavior as a presenter and viewer are both incorporated. as a presenter, they need to maintain eye contact, speak with an appropriate volume level, and welcome questions or comments at the end. as a viewer, they actually evaluate themselves at the end of each day based on three components: attentiveness, respect, and questioning techniques. we review a rubric for them to take around with them with specifics about what it means to be a respectful audience member, to have effective questioning techniques, etc. the viewer is also responsible for completing their "station visit" sheet, which include information they learned about each presentation they visited.
ultimately, i am really happy with how the gallery walks have worked recently. as always, there will be some students who frustrate me and some students who really impress me with their work. as the year goes on, the projects seem to get better and the gallery walks go smoother and smoother with practice.
one of my favorite things is when i see previous students and they say, "ms. sienrukos, are you still doing the million dollar project!? i loved that!" there's been many times students mention remembering the projects they did in 6th grade math, and that's what makes it all worth it. we did something in class that made an impact.
for more information, rubrics, etc, feel free to comment! i'd love to hear from you!