Perhaps I am a bit comfortable thinking about a system with year-long projects in my classroom next year…mostly because of what much of my “instruction” looks like in my classroom now.
For the classes that I am the singleton teacher, much of the class time is driven on the idea of assessment as learning. (I mean, I also love assessment for learning, but much of my time is not spent there.) I give my little ones a page with the outline of the unit/week/chunk of time with the content and scholarly behavior objectives. With the assistance of adults/peer tutors, the students monitor their progress and think deeply about their progress towards mastery of my (the units?) predetermined objectives and of their personal goals.
Then for the day to day situation, we follow a predictable schedule. The Do Now has a review of skills (for instance, creating tables from an equations). The students work on the DN until it is accurate and then retrieve their unit folder. They work on the next step of their unit work/project. As the students complete a chunk of work, they receive feedback (and not advise). The students make their desired revisions and then submit for assessment as they work on the next piece of the unit. Students make seek or offer help from/for their peers throughout the class period. The students in the minutes of class, write about their progress from the day and orally describe what their next steps will be.
There is some sort of end date that everyone is working towards – but the end of the project looks different for various members of the class based on their needs and strengths. Then we have portfolio days where the students write about the unit skills and their progress in many skills.
Recently, Langer’s residents separately came to visit one of my classes that uses this process. Both residents commented that the class seems to run itself and the students seem to know what to do. For an outside observer, this probably seems true. In order for this work to be successful, students and teachers need to be able to go with the flow and be able to set and meet personal deadlines based on a larger deadline and knowledge of oneself. I often wish the the students could stay on task for longer stretches of time, or recognize that that stamina is probably a good thing to develop. We have many conversations about what members of our community need and what we are able to provide to each other. We talk about how to provide feedback, use feedback, and reflect on trends in feedback.
As I think about year-long projects, I think that this system that I have already used for a while will work for much of the time. I imagine that students will be able to have year-long folders (that are ongoing) and unit folders that are more immediate based on the current work. Because of the importance and focus of systems of equations in the Algebra 1 curriculum, I feel that a series of leveled systems of equations problems would work well for our thoughts of year-long projects. As students work on developing new skills, they return to problems and enhance their problem solving processes and solutions. Students will be able to employ multiple representations and problem-solving strategies to attack problems and make decisions.
Of course, it would be lovely to have a diverse array of types of problems that students need to be able to figure out. Over the summer, among other things, I’m going to peruse and carefully consider the course that would use this textbook as the primary source of mathematical education. Perhaps I’ll be inspired to rethink everything…