Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Since the final book project requires students to think abstractly about books they have read, I want to give them time to do just that: think. It's very rare in some classrooms that students have the time to brainstorm and work through their thinking, especially for projects that require either multiple steps or a large product. I think there's a tendency, especially for projects, for students to work on them on their own outside of the classroom. Since it's the end of the year, I want students to work through their thinking so they can be the best judge of what would work for this art piece for the project and also it gives me a chance to see that they are actually working through their ideas rather than rushing.
I begin the lesson by reviewing the Final Project Brainstorming Guide with the class. Most students have their own technology so they can follow along, as I post it on my web-site. Other students use the iPads. I read the directions and instructions on how to fill it out.
The guide has students think of three different ideas for their final art piece or movie. Once they come up with the idea, they then need to list the supplies/resources they will need. They also need to explain why it is effective and what problems they foresee in creating this project. Thinking about different ideas really helps them to narrow down which would be the best option for them to work with.
By doing this kind of thinking, students are forced to think of the obstacles that may occur down the line. This allows them to prepare for any issues that may come up. This process also forces them to think about time. With projects like this, students think of this grand ideas and then run into roadblocks when it's too late. By having them think ahead they can determine if they have enough time to complete their ideas and also have they have the resources available.
The rest of the class time is devoted to students working through their thinking as they fill out the brainstorming guide.
It's important to give students this time so they can really think about what would be the best way to present their ideas. It's also important to have students think about time. Since it's the end of the year, students need to be mindful that due dates are a lot stricter so giving them class time to think through how long the project will take can be incredibly beneficial.
This video explains how I would conference with these students: Brainstorming Conferences.
This is a lesson that you can also differentiate instruction a bit. Some students already have their idea and are motivated to work on it. Since they are, it's important to keep that excitement and let them work. I have no problem with them working on the project rather than filling out the guide. If they know what they want to do and are ready to work, I say let them. Other students really need this time to work through their thinking so they can determine what would be the best project.
During this time, I circulate around the classroom and try and conference with students who may need it. Most of the students that need it are students who need assistance thinking of ideas for their art piece or students who need help narrowing down their thinking. Sometimes students have these larger than life ideas. While it's great to be creative, I need to remind students to rein it in. It's not a matter of squashing creativity, but thinking about time and resources.