First of all the project intensity begins with the planning, preparation, and introduction to the project.
My colleague carefully creates research packets for the students and introduces them to each important step of the project including the following:
- Choosing a global change maker whose life work and impact "speaks to you."
- Helping students choose just right books to learn about the change maker they've chosen.
- Teaching students how to read for information and take notes.
- Introducing the main areas of life such as childhood, adulthood, struggles, influences, why famous and the kinds of information and questions related to those main areas in order to lead their research.
- Reviewing a note taking packet.
- Introducing the written report format as well as writing techniques and grammar skills.
- Teaching how to move from first person to third person as students write the fictional reports.
In addition to this colleague's thoughtful and deep work, the art teacher and tech teacher also got involved in the project by teaching students how to research and create portraits of these famous people and how to create timelines and digital posters of the individuals' lives. Further the school librarian reviewed research procedures and supported student research and writing too.
Once the project got going, the rest of the teaching team including specialists, assistants, families, and all classroom teachers got involved by coaching the students forward with all aspects of the research, writing, and presentation work.
To enrich the project, we also hosted two living history presentations to demonstrate to children how they can act in character and what a life story looks like via a living history presentation. Our presentations this year focused on the lives of Ben Franklin and Lydia Maria Child. Over the years we've had a variety of living history presentations which have enriched the teachers' knowledge and experience related to this genre and the lives of change makers too.
Now we're at the final stage of the project--a stage where there's lots of editing, finessing, and helping one another. During this stage students will also prepare their costumes and practice acting in character. Finally we'll host the celebration where children will line up in chronological order by the birth date of their famous individual. They'll be dressed in costume and stand in front of their fictional interview, time line, digital poster, and hand-drawn/painted portraits. Some will likely have props too. They will present for the entire school community, families, and other interested individuals. The show itself is a good teacher about changes in time, the qualities and life events of change makers, and the result of perseverance and scholarship.
While this is an intense and time consuming project for all involved, it is a project that's memorable, beneficial, rich, and deep--a keeper that gives students strength, inspiration, and knowledge to support their journey ahead.