Wednesday, June 20, 2012

LESSON ONE: WHEN A BIG PROJECT IS ASSIGNED

Image Courtesy of Frugal Village
As I shared in my last post, I'm attempting to teach my sons organization, research, and time management skills this summer so they don't crash and burn (again!  and again and again!!) when they are assigned long-term projects at school.  This momma can't take anymore panic-filled nights of it's-not-started-yet-but-it's-due-tomorrow!  I know most of you sane folks out there would rather read about sea stars and sandy beaches in June, but feel free to bookmark this and come back to it in September when that first big project packet shows up in your child's book bag.  I know a lot of other kids struggle to manage long-term school projects, so I'll be posting my lesson plans throughout our summer research adventure and you can find them all by clicking here

My sons are both especially challenged with time management and organization, so I have devised a binder system to help them plan these monster projects, keep track of all of the parts, and have everything all in one place, easy to find.  I now bring you

Image Courtesy of Cannon Beach Gazette
LESSON ONE: WHAT TO DO WHEN THE BIG PROJECT IS ASSIGNED:

1.      As soon as you receive the project assignment, WRITE THE DUE DATE IN YOUR PLANNER IMMEDIATELY!

2.     Next, read through all of the instructions in the packet carefully.  As you go through, underline, circle, or highlight each subtask (each “thing” that you are expected to turn in).  How many “things” do you need to complete?

3.     With help from Mom, set up a binder for your project with one section for each subtask.

4.     List these subtask items on a separate piece of paper.  Are all the subtasks worth the same?  Sometimes your teacher will give you a rubric that shows what percentage of your grade each item represents, but if not, use common sense.  Would the teacher count a poem or a comic strip as much as a research paper?  Not unless it is a creative writing project for your Language Arts teacher or a drawing project for your Art teacher!  Put stars next to the most important subtasks.

5.     Which tasks are you dreading, and which sound like the most fun?  Put smiley faces next to the subtasks that you think will be fun.

6.     With help from Mom or from your teacher, set interim due dates for each subtask of your project.  Make sure the biggest/most important subtasks (like research!) get done early.  Alternate hard subtasks with fun assignments to reward yourself!  Write these due dates in your planner and in your assignment packet.

7.   Look at your planner to see which days you will have the most time available, and block out time to work on your project.  Keep in mind that you will have other assignments from other teachers to work on that you don’t know about yet.  With Mom’s help, block out enough time for working on your project.

8.       Now you can start working on the first subtask! 

So, as you know, Lars's summer research project is on Japan, and Anders is researching Ireland.  How's it going so far?  Well, unsurprisingly, although both boys were able to identify the most important subtasks from the 9-page instruction packet, they needed more help when it came to setting those interim due dates and budgeting their time.  For instance, Lars's initial plan relied on an unlikely scenario in which he would get home at 6 PM after a full day of theatre performance camp, and then in the half hour before dinner he would somehow miraculously practice piano AND complete 20 note cards' worth of research.  I let him write this ill-fated plan in his calendar, but then after a couple of days I said, "Let's touch base to see if you're still on track with your project."  We moved some things around at that point, recognizing that some days he would have more time to work on the project than others, and on really busy days with other activities he might not get to work on it at all.  I'm glad that I have different day camps, Chinese tutoring and music lessons going on for the kids while they're working on their summer research projects, because that's what it's like when it's a real school project. 

They will both be finishing up their research tomorrow afternoon, and they are on track to have their research papers written by the interim due date we set for June 25th.

One more thing: Motivation is a powerful thing.  The LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 game for Play Station is on its way from Amazon and little boys will be blissfully blasting away at Death Eaters as soon as their papers have been written and revised to my satisfaction.  Hey -- a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do!

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