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Posts Tagged ‘passion projects’

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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Last week I wrote about our Passion Projects. My students are continuing to work on these, but we’ve hit a few bumps along the road.

I am trying to tell myself that any worthwhile learning endeavor has road blocks. We just need to power through them.

On Monday, I had to have the serious talk about plagiarism. I showed Tobie how I could put the text of his writing into a Google search, and it would take me to the very site where he got the information. I explained that I was not interested in reading someone else’s work. “I want to hear your voice, your passion.”

Emily pouted and tore up her draft. She was distraught. To her, Mary Pope Osborn has a perfect voice. She lost confidence in her own passion. I gave her the you-are-a-writer speech, then I left her alone, and by Tuesday, she was writing again. And this time without even looking at the book.

Erin had decided to bullet-point facts for her project. This is a good craft move; however, as a class we had decided that the word count would be more than 300 words. She was in tears. I said, “You know everything you need to know about narwhals. Open your journal and just write what you know.” She eventually wrote two more paragraphs.

Before Erin’s road block, she spent a great deal of time making a color page. She has extended her project to be a service project. She wants to raise money to “adopt a narwhal.” She decided to use Paint to create her color page. I forget about this tool. It’s been around a long time. Sometimes the just-right tool has been there all along.

narwhal color page copy

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

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At NCTE 2015 a few weeks ago, I attended a session titled “The Power of Passion-Driven Research” including Laurel Snyder, Deb Perryman, Jen Vincent, Kate Messner, LeUyen Pham, and Laura Purdie Salas. Before the conference, I told my students which authors I would likely see, so they could write a letter to their favorite author. My new first grader, Lynzee, wrote to Kate Messner because she had read both Ranger in Time books, Oregon Trail and Rome.

During her response, Kate mentioned Lynzee’s letter. Lynzee wrote, “Your books changed my life. Before I read them, I didn’t know anything about the Oregon trail or Rome!”

Kate’s enthusiasm for Lynzee’s letter touched me. All I had done was put the books into Lynzee’s hands. What power lies in that!

I came back to my students with a renewed enthusiasm for research. One thing I know about gifted kids is they can become hyper-focused on one topic of interest. For Erin, it’s narwhals. She loves fantasy and unicorns, so of course, narwhals, too. She wants to raise money to send to the World Wildlife Fund to get an “Adopt a Narwhal” kit.

For Lani, she can’t get enough of Anne Frank and the Holocaust. And the range of interests are wide. Vannisa is fascinated by sleep. Emily wants to know everything about Pompeii.

This week I talked to my students about writing their own nonfiction book about their passions. We are calling them “Passion Projects.” Using Nancy Bo Flood’s book Water Runs through this Book as a model, we discussed text features. We created a rubric. And now they are on their way to making books of their own.

water-runs-cover

Some of my students are adding the element of poetry to their projects as Nancy did in her book. Here is Kaiden’s sad poem about elephants.

Shiny Ivory
made into piano keys
Some are lucky and get recovery.
Others get the key to death just lying there
flies swarming around them as they drift away.

–Kaiden

I don’t know if this project will change my students’ lives, but I do know that when you go deep into a subject, you remember. I have loved Maine (never been there) all my life because of a project I did in fourth grade. Passions matter. And when we allow our students to follow their passions, great things can happen. Or great books can be written. We’ll see.

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