Implementing a Passion Project with Intermediate Learners

Untitled-1For the first 90% of the school year I planned units that I thought would be relevant and interesting to most of my students. I was thrilled with the progress they made in their proficiency and for the most part they remained engaged throughout the year.  As a result, I’ve decided to try something new with my Intermediate learners. For the last two weeks of the semester (and as their final exam grade), I’m going to put each of my Intermediate learners in charge of designing his or her own curriculum. Each of my French 3, 4 and 5 students will research a topic of their choice and then present what they have learned to their classmates.  Their presentations, as well as the journal entries they will write to document their research, will determine their final exam grade.

Never having implemented this type of project, I did some quick research on Genius Hour and Passion Project ideas.  There are so many great ideas out there!  Based on what I found out, I’ve developed these guidelines: passionprojectdirections

The students will first complete a Google Doc with general questions about their topic, how it relates to a Francophone culture, their big idea question, some beginning research questions, and how they will share what they learn. ( Here’s a Word version of the document that I made:googledoc ) Afterward, they will have 5 class periods to research their topic in class.  I have encouraged each student to considering bringing in a device for this research and I have 8 classroom computers for those without a smart phone/tablet/laptop etc. They will only be permitted to read/listen about their topic in French while in class.  During the last 10-15 minutes of each class period (or at home), they will complete a blog entry (on the same Google Doc).  As indicated on the project guide, I will randomly select one or more blog entries to grade for each student.  For the second week, the students will create the visual aid for their presentation, create index cards, and practice their presentations.  Finally, they will present their projects to the class.  While I think many of the students will choose a Powerpoint/Google Presentation, I’d also accept videos or possible other formats that they suggest.

Although we won’t begin researching until this week, most of my students are excited about being able to study “anything they want.”  While I’m thrilled that they’re engaged by this project, I’m also more than a little nervous about putting them in the driver’s seat.  Like many teachers, I might have just a tiny bit of a control issue!  As a result, I’ve decided to assign a daily participation/interpersonal speaking grade. Although I don’t normally grade participation, I wanted to make sure to have some documentation about their work on this project. In order to justify this grade to the “proficiency voice inside my head,” I added a descriptor about discussing their research with Madame.  As I circulate among the students as they work, I plan on conducting quick interviews to gauge their progress, as well as make them accountable for staying on task. Even though I’m a little nervous, I can’t wait to see what these students come up with!

If you’ve implemented a Passion Project or Genius Hour, I’d love to hear your words of wisdom!

 

22 thoughts on “Implementing a Passion Project with Intermediate Learners

  1. Bethanie

    This is perfect timing! I was just about to start assembling a similar project, and am thankful that you have advanced the process substantially for me!

    Reply
  2. Joy Kirr

    I’m so excited for you and your students! A coworker friend of mine, Tina Wilson, led me to your blog post. She teaches French at the middle school level. She always seems curious about Genius Hour / Passion Projects, but is waiting to jump in, understandably. I wanted to share this tab with you from the Genius Hour LiveBinder, hoping it will help you plan and continue to try these projects for a long time! http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/829279?tabid=e9c991eb-b83a-0ca9-de67-d98e0ed08979

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing, Joy. I’ll look forward to checking out this information!

      Reply
  3. Skylar

    How fun! I love this idea — great idea on requiring French-only research in class. You can’t control what they’ll do outside of class, but this will emfage them in some interpretive reading and/or listening!

    Reply
  4. Alie Browning

    Madame Shepard, this is amazing. I have been trying to figure out how to implement Genius Hour in my class all year. First semester I made my exam projects and gave them choices from a list. This seems like the perfect way to end my French 3 class. May I use your materials as a guide? I am happy to give you the credit you deserve!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks, Alie! Of course you may use anything you find here, that’s why I’m sharing it! Lisa

      Reply
  5. Natalia

    We must be reading each others minds! I am getting ready to roll out my Projet de Passion with my French 4 classes in the next few days and even though I am not new to choice projects based on what we have done in the semester, I have never done completely open student choice.

    I am a strong believer in establishing structure to any project to help students in their work; therefore, reading your guidelines was helpful as it confirmed what I was planning to do. I’d like to offer you an alternative to “one Google Doc per student” scenario to make your life as a teacher a bit less hectic and more efficient (who wants to search Drive for each student’s doc, especially if they didn’t name it correctly?!)

    Last semester, I decided to implement idea I read about on Alice Keeler’s blog – using Google Sheets to create template and a tab for each of the students in class (http://www.alicekeeler.com/teachertech/2015/01/02/google-sheets-copy-a-template-for-each-student/). I then created a template for my purposes that somewhat mirrors what you are asking your students to do. (If you’re interested, DM me on Twitter and I will send you the link.) This allowed me to monitor each student’s progress and, in case I was not able to talk to them individually in class, reply with comments and/or suggestions on their tabs. This also put a bit of a pressure on the kids as they were able to see each other’s work but since they all had different topics they pursued or different approaches to the same topic there were no problems with copying. At the end, I entered a grade for maintaining their tab and completing all the sections in comprehensible manner (accountability piece). I think this time I may do separate grades for separate sections.

    Let’s compare the results once it’s all set and done to see how we can adjust this project (if necessary) 🙂

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing the link and your ideas. I’d love to touch base after the projects are done! Lisa

      Reply
    2. sally

      Hello! This is wonderful – I’m definitely going to give it a try this year, starting next week in my French IV class. I’m interested in knowing more about Natalia’s Google Sheet idea. Any chance there might be more information on how to set that up?

      Je vous en remercie pour tout!
      Sally

      Reply
  6. Clarice Hammett

    Merci mille fois!!! I am was planning on doing a similar project for my French 4/5 students, and your guidelines, rubric, etc., are awesome! Thank you so much for sharing – I am so appreciative of your blog and teachers like you who continue to share and develop new and amazing ideas.

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a kind comment. I’d love to hear how your students do on their projects!

      Reply
  7. Holly Bryk

    I am thinking about doing a similar project with my Spanish 3 students. Thank you very much for sharing this information. I would love to hear how it worked out with your classes.

    Reply
  8. Tory

    Thanks so much for this! I love it. I introduced it to my AP kids today and they seem excited about it.

    Reply
  9. Heather Pineault

    Salut! This response is a little late, but I was so excited to read your post that I had to respond. I, too, did “Un projet génie” with my classes (Fr 1, Fr 4/5 last year). I did them for the same reasons that everyone here has mentioned and that you articulated so clearly in the original post. I did something a little differently. I also heard about it in terms of 20% time and with that in mind, decided to give the kids approximately 20% (one class out of an 8 day rotation with 6 class periods during that time) to work on their project over time. They had approximately 4-5 days in class where most (not all) of the period (55 min) was for them to work on their projects and the HW for that day was their project as well. I have to say that it went better than I had imagined — I allowed them to either work with a small group (max 3) or on their own. They picked topics from animals, to biology, to Edith Piaf, to Victor Hugo, to French DJs, to food in different Francophone countries (I had expected everyone to do this the first time), to ski resorts, sports, architecture…. they truly surprised me with the wide range of interests. Their presentations were overall well done. I need to do a better job giving them a little bit of structure (I had created a google doc for them to update after each class so that I could “check in” and their feedback was that they really didn’t like it). I also still struggle with the fact that when I’m “in charge”, I create activities so we are really a 90%+ French environment. That being said, they were not sticking to French, or French resources when they were working on their projects. What do folks think about that? At this point, that was my trade off with seeing them so engaged in topics related to the Francophone world. Their feedback on the overall project was very positive and it was a neat way to bring more culture from around the Francophone world in to my class without my having to be the “expert”.

    So, how did you like having the two week block v. how I described my experience (more spread out, once per rotation0? And any thoughts on the use of L2 for the project when the kids are researching and working together?

    I look forward to tweaking this part of my curriculum this year using ideas from here and the other posts.
    Merci!
    Heather

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Sorry that I’ve taken so long to respond. Now that school has started, I’m having trouble keeping up with teaching and blogging during the week. I think that using an actual genius hour format is awesome. For me personally, it would be a struggle. It would be stressful for me to take time out from a unit to work on the project. Again, this says more about my own personality/teaching style that what might be best, even for the students. I think I’m just a “big picture” planner, and would struggle to not find genius hour days a “distraction.” I’m glad that it worked for you and I’d definitely like to try it at some point. As for sticking to French, I was a stickler about that (which is why I only did it with my Intermediate students). Although I couldn’t control which resources students read outside of class, everybody had to be reading French during class. Since they wrote a French summary of each day’s research, I was able to assess the extent to which they had comprehended their sources. Students who copied parts of their source, rather than summarizing demonstrated that they hadn’t really understood. As for conversation, I had each student do an individual project, so there wasn’t any need for conversation–although if they were proficient enough, this would be a great addition. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with all of us! Lisa

      Reply
  10. Jennifer Geroux

    Hi Lisa,

    I LOVE your blog and have borrowed many of your ideas these past two years. Could you give me some examples of the topics your students chose for their passion projects? This would be really helpful to me when I get ready to explain this to my independent study students in May. Merci mille fois!

    Reply
    1. madameshepard Post author

      Thank you for your kind words. Some topics that I remember are: French candy, freedom of speech in France, Stromae, Indila, the French police force, becoming a doctor in France, Moroccan dishes, strange French animals, planning a trip to the Cote d’Azur, traditional dances of France, the Paris marathon, tattoos in France, the French armed forces, organized crime in France, the Montreal jazz festival, service dogs in France, museums in Paris, lemurs (in Madagascar), Disneyland Paris, French pastries, monuments in Paris. Let me know how this project works out with your students!

      Reply
      1. Chris

        Could you share an example of final project that you received for the Genius Hour? Thinking of doing it with level 3.

        Reply
        1. Heather Pineault

          I have done these a few times with levels 1 – 4. For me, the projects are usually a powerpoint or a Prezi that the kids present to the class. My requirement is that they make the presentation interactive in some way in order to engage the class — so I have had kids who have compared foods in different French speaking countries actually cook and bring in samples for everyone. I had a presentation on Francophone songs and the student had done a SoundCloud – he had the class vote on which artist they like the best. Another student did a unit on Fashion and had pictures for the class to color for fun as she presented. Finally, two students presented a trip to Luxembourg and they had given a bingo board to the class with vocab related to the trip – students had to cross out words as they heard them in the presentation. I hope that gives you some ideas! I tell them the sky is the limit and they can present / teach / share the info in any way that they would like.

          Reply
          1. Kathy Zetts

            Heather,
            I love these ideas, especially the “bingo board” !

            If you are still in touch with the students who used it, please say “merci beaucoup!”

  11. ifolo

    HI everyone…..I am a new teacher….and this blog is a life saver for me. Your material is ever so useful!!! I was wondering if you had a copy of your passion project instructions/rubrics in French? Or if anyone else on this site has something similar (written in French). I have francophones in all my classes and while I will translate it myself, I thought I would ask here first…..

    Reply

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