Monthly Archives: September 2013

Round Two: 20% Projects in the World Language Classroom

First project turned in. Love how she spells Veinte.
First project turned in. Love how she spells Veinte.

Two years ago I first experimented with 20% Time in my DP I Spanish class.  I had just read Angela Maiers’ A Passion-Driven Classroom, we had just finished a KIVA Loan project, and being a long-time A Whole New Mind fan, I decided to give it a go. I was not clear with my expectations but I did give my students 4 guidelines. 

2011 Guidelines

  1. Explore your passion.
  2. Solve a problem.
  3. Connect with another person.
  4. Improve your Spanish.

Thankfully, my students hung in there and did the best they could with little guidance from me in terms of format and grading. It was quite messy but the results were amazing!  One day in December a student handed me a folder and said, “I’m turing in my Proyecto de Veinte Por Ciento”. The look on the other students’ faces was incredulous. Was it due they all asked? I quickly recovered from the shock myself and said something like, “it’s due when you think it’s due” and took her folder with a smile.  I wanted to model for my other students that this is the true essence of 20% time. Of course I never would have expected a student to turn something in without it being  DUE.  We made it through the year and many of the projects were outstanding. Some better than others and I’m sure some students would have preferred I had just told them what to do. We also struggled through failure which seemed to be a new concept for my students. 

A few of our favorites:

  • Using a blog to make online cookbooks in Spanish and share with students across the school.
  • Teaching local Spanish-speaking elementary students, in español, how to play Volleyball.
  • Meeting, virtually, students from Honduras to prep for a Service Learning Project taking place in Honduras and then sharing her findings.
  • Connecting with relatives and friends in Argentina to make special foods (alfajores) to sell for National Spanish Honour Society.
  • Digging deeper into a topic studied in a TOK class and then sharing her thinking with the class.
  • Asking the class to make Holiday cards (in Spanish) and donate a few bucks, then buying and wrapping gifts, and then helping deliver the cards/gifts to local Spanish-Speaking students with little financial resources.
  • Researching the perfect place (Chile o España) to spend a GAP year after high school and then sharing the results with us. She chose Chile and actually went.

I’m back at it again, two years later.  I thought the learning was so powerful that I submitted to present at ACTFL this coming November.  My proposal was accepted and I’ll now have two rounds of projects to share with other World Language Teachers. I started last week with my DP Spanish I class. Here are the first changes * in the process this round.

2013 Guidelines 

  1. Explore a passion you are interested in LEARNING* more about.
  2. Improve your Spanish.
  3. Connect with other people.
  4. Save the world in the process.*

Side note: Expect to fail a few times in the process.

I’m looking forward to sharing publicly how this round of 20% Time goes for me and my students. Please feel free to share any experience you have with giving your students 20% Time in your classes.

Time to get out of the eddy

EddyFlowerPic
Kayakers hanging out in an eddy on the Colorado River making the shape of a flower. Source

I’ve spent hours, days and even years sitting in my kayak acting as eddy flower.  Colorado rivers are scary and their rapids are even scarier. The safe place, then, is always the eddy until you are confident to get into the big water.  Here you can safely watch your friends surf the waves without taking risks. In Jeff Utecht’s book REACH he gives us permission to lurk (stay in the eddy) when first building your Professional Learning Network (PLN). He says it’s part of the process. He’s right. However, I have been lurking far too long. I’ve been reading blogs for education for many years. I’ve encouraged and taught teachers to blog and to tweet.  Years ago I could get away with the “do as I say…” mantra but today I need to model for my students true global collaboration, sharing, and learning. It’s my turn to leave the eddy and play in the big waves.  I am not truly confident in my skills but I am hoping this COETAIL experience will give me both the confidence and inspiration to improve my digital footprint and deepen my learning in the process.