In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

20 Percent Time – Will It Work?

on April 9, 2013

Thanks to a recommendation from the launch of DEN Reads, I recently re-read Dan Pink’s book, Drive, about what motivates people. He talks extensively about Google’s 20% time. Here’s a bit of background from Google.

So, what does this have to do with my classroom? Especially, my 5th graders? Well, it’s getting close to testing time. When external pressures to help prepare my students to be successful of state testing, some say it would make sense to be putting them in situations where they were mimicking what they will have to do in May for testing. I decided to do the opposite. Test prep bores me… to tears. Really. Tears. Instead, I want my students reading informational text, applying their learning to real world situations and creating content that displays their understanding. Tada! 20 percent time for the classroom!

I already have 45 minutes per day built into my schedule when my students who receive tutoring, special pull outs, etc. go their separate ways on different days of the week. During that time, I’ve run literature circles, provided time for extra self-selected reading, and worked with students individually and in small groups as needed for remediation and enrichment. All of these are a great use of time, and many of these will continue. The difference will be in the fact that if you are not in pull out or working with me for a short mini lesson, you will be working on your 20% Project. For my fifth graders, we are splitting the projects into two week chunks. Yesterday, I told my students that they were all required to do a research project. Groan. But, they could research anything they wanted to research. Head jerk. I also told them that they had to share what they learned with the whole class. Ugh. But, they could chose individually how to report their learning. Whoa!  They are allowed to give a talk, make a poster, write a blog post, share a PPT, or whatever, just as long as they share what they have learned. Today, students submitted their choice of topics. I have students learning about everything from Komodo Dragons to How to Become a Fashion Designer to the Secret of Sasquatch. The best part is that I am rolling into the final quarter of the school year, and my students are more excited than ever. They are begging to research and bring in their own materials. This is a dream! At the end of the 2 weeks, we will take a day or two to share and then choose new topics and go again. I can’t wait to learn more about my students and see them share their learning. I will continue to share my journey, as I navigate this exciting project. Yay!

By the way, Post It Notes were developed during 3M’s version of 20% time. How can anything from which sticky notes emerged be anything but awesome!?

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