Yearlong Projects Inspire Independent Learning and a Love of Reading

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Yearlong projects are a central piece of the Results Only Learning Environment–a student-centered, workshop-type classroom.

Obviously, project-based assessment is not new. Yearlong projects in the ROLE, though, are different in a few ways. They help fan students’ intrinsic motivation, leading them to embrace learning rather than grades. Plus, yearlong projects cultivate an ongoing conversation about learning.

A yearlong project is one in which students set a long-term goal and work backwards, creating checkpoints that the teacher can set.

A smart year-long project will foster autonomy, collaboration and mastery of learning outcomes.

A model project 

I have taught a variety of yearlong projects, including the Reading All Year project. We would set a “Barnes Class” goal of 2,500 books read by June. This averages to roughly 25 books per student. Of course, some read 50 while others may have missed the goal, while still reading 15 books. Along the way, we learned genre, book structure, literary elements and the fundamentals of writing.

As the year moved forward, students became engaged in the project and all of its parts, not just because they were interested in reaching the final goal but because their love of books and of reading was growing exponentially. Best of all, they valued the narrative feedback I provided about their reading habits, writing and the talks they did about their books.

Many students who had never read a book without being forced to do so suddenly became avid readers. They carried books with them all over the school. Colleagues even reported that they sometimes couldn’t get students to put away their language arts book in math or science class.

Consider how a project like this can change your teaching strategy and how your students learning, too, might change.

Yearlong projects instill a sense of ownership, which drives students to want to do more, and extending projects to include many learning outcomes or standards works in any class and in most grades.

Think about constructing a yearlong project for your class. What are your doubts or questions? Let us know in the comment section below, and let’s build an amazing yearlong project together.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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