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How can students plan their projects?

We set due dates for assignments and penalize students who miss them, but how often do students cram an assignment in just before it is due? Perhaps most of the time. That's because requiring students to plan is not the same as teaching them how to plan.

Analyzing the Situation

Planning isn't a mystical process. As a teacher, you do it all the time, so you can teach students to do it as well. Planning starts when the student analyzes the situation. The 5 W's and H provide a handy tool for analyzing any situation. These journalistic questions capture all the key information:

  • Who? (the people) my eighth grade class and I
  • What? (the event) are studying plate tectonics
  • Where? (the location) in Earth Science
  • When? (the time) during fourth hour this week
  • Why? (the reason) we want to understand how crusts move
  • How? (the means) we need to create projects

Setting a Goal and Objectives

Once the student answers these questions about the situation, he or she can come up with a goal. What does the person want to accomplish?

Goal: I want to make a model of plate tectonics that shows how subduction works, how volcanoes form, and how mountains are pushed up.

To flesh out this goal, the student uses the 5 W's and H again. She or he is defining a new situation that will achieve the goal. (These are the objectives.

  • Who? my lab partner and I
  • What? will make a model of plate tectonics
  • Where? in Earth Science and at home
  • When? this week in school and at home
  • Why? to show subduction, volcanoes, and mountain formation
  • How? We will make a pie in a glass pan using apple-sauce and try to make the crust form the different features of mountain formation, subduction, and even a volcano.

Tasks, Time, Team, and Tools (4T's)

After setting up a goal and objectives, the student needs to think about the 4T's of any plan: tasks, time, team, and tools. The person starts by listing tasks needed to complete the project. Then by assigning due dates for each step, the student thinks about time and creates a schedule. Afterward, the person lists the team who will work on the project and gathers needed tools, materials, and information.

Inquire: A Guide to 21st Century Learning provides students a single sheet that guides them through this planning process. By completing the sheet, students can develop a plan for any project.

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