When it comes to teaching World War 2 and the Holocaust, it's so easy to spend a month, two months, and much longer since there's so much of interest! As an instructor, I get excited to spend time on such cool stuff, but I also hope to get into MY lifetime by the end of the year, let alone the lifetime of my students.
So, I decided to have my students take on a nebulous project. It became much less nebulous after talking it out with others.
My original plan was to have students pursue an aspect of the era that appealed to them, collaborate on it with another school in another district, and perhaps even form groups from that other school. They'd perform deep, meaningful research, they'd collaborate, and they'd blog to reflect.
The end result wasn't quite my original vision because of concerns from building administration about the collaboration aspect (not concerns as in never; concerns as in "not for the first project.") I did get students to learn deeper about something that interests them, challenge themselves to make connections between seemingly unrelated content, and reflecting on their work.
Feel free to look at the project here.
In general, students enjoyed the project. They liked the freedom of the essential questions, though some of them didn't so much like the objectives being so unrelated (some liked this, though, because it focused their research and forced them to learn things they wouldn't have if they didn't have the need to connect the objectives). Some of them liked the blogging, saying they got some great ideas by collaborating with their peers while others hated the blogging, thinking it a hassle, though most of those students acknowledged the blogging helped keep them on task and thinking about their achievements.
Students were required to make a blog post for each class work session for a total of four, and they had to post at least three comments on the blogs of others offering feedback. I created a Google Doc of all the blogs and grouped them by essential question. A great suggestion was made that groups should be made into groups of groups for collaboration so that they don't need to go through all 60+ blogs looking for something to comment. A great idea for so many reasons! This would have happened in the original vision, since they'd be working closely with a group from the other school, but I missed that in my actual implementation.
I'm proud of this project, and I'm proud of the work my students achieved. I can't wait to put it all together with them this week, having conversations based around the essential questions and the learning they did through the project.