This year my fifth graders took charge of their learning. This is nothing new for my learners. Even when I was in second grade, I designed projects based on individual interests, abilities, and the required curriculum. Once you know your students, you have a starting point for lesson and project development. At least, that's the way I do it.
This year, the difference is that the class was able to plan their own Valentine Day's party, and they far exceeded my expectations! Our "We Love the Classics" party was based on their reading of classic works of literature. The party became what the children made of it, including food and activities related to the books and decorations to match as well. The children spent their own time (their choice) typing directions for their activities. They worked on decorations and created extensive menus (also not required) that matched the books they read. Parents were sent on searches for special food items that were a must for each of five stations we would have at the party. The activities were also crafted during free time and at home, including a giant "door" that students could walk through to get to one station, "Fantasy Island." Incredible! I received several messages from parents about how excited their children were about this projects - that they could not stop talking about it. Remember, this was THEIR project: no grade, rubric, test. And yet, so much effort was put into this "assignment" you would have thought it was a final exam.
In the end, the academic value took care of itself. There was much discussion about the classic books within small groups of children. There were "how-to" pieces of writing developed and shared to help party-goers complete the activities. Students learned about all the classic books as they traveled from one station to the next, and they practiced their presentation skills as they took turns running their own stations (room parents and teachers simply became observers and paper plate distributors).
See our We Love the Classics web site here.