Project Planning

Common Core Project Planner


    Six A's of designing projects

Step 1: Brainstorm

What will the students learn? (content standards)

What will the students do? (practice standards)


(circle applicable standards… add details where useful)

MP1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

MP2: Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

MP3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

MP4: Model with mathematics.

MP5: Use appropriate tools strategically.

MP6 Attend to precision.

MP7: Look for and make use of structure.

MP8: Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

What will the students create? (products)


Step 2: Essential Question Creation

What is the Essential Question that will drive this project?

·         Should be open-ended and provocative

·         Begin with the end in mind

Sample Essential Questions:

 Why do humans need to protect the earth and how can we as sixth graders play a role in this?

How are things different when you cross the U.S.-Mexico border and why?

How do we create values using only one color and black and white?

How can high school students help to address issues of poverty and hunger, in both our local and global communities?

How can an election candidate effectively persuade voters to elect her/him?

How can a home be designed to have little impact on the environment?

How have the simple inventions of the past helped to create the complex life of today?

 Step 3: HTH Design Principles

As you continue to think through your project, ask yourself the following questions as they relate to the HTH design principles…


Common Intellectual Mission

a.    What content/skills will ALL students learn (regardless of role)? ______________________________________________________________________________


b.    What individual roles/jobs will students take on in this project? ______________________________________________________________________________


Adult-World Connection

a.    What is the real world application for this project? Why is this work important?) ______________________________________________________________________



b.    Who is the audience for this project?  How will work be displayed publicly? ______________________________________________________________________



c.    How will you connect adults (and professionals) from the outside of school to this project? _____________________________________________________________________________



a.    How will you incorporate “student choice” into this project? _____________________________________________________________________________



b.    How will you challenge strong students? _____________________________________________________________________________



c.    How will you support IEP students? _____________________________________________________________________________



d.    How will you support ELL students? _____________________________________________________________________________



e.    How will you assess and evaluate each student’s effort and work?  _____________________________________________________________________________


Step 4: Assessment

How will you assess this project both in content, skills, and product?

Will you use…


Formal Assessments (test)

Exit Slips

Reflection Sheets

Rubric Creating Tips…

  • Allow parents to have access ahead of time
  • Allow students to have a role in developing the rubric
  • Give rubrics to students BEFORE the project starts
  • Avoid group grades!
  • Assess LEARNING not just responsibility (Pretty poster board ¹ learning)

Step 5: 6 A’s of Designing Projects



Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Does the project emanate from a problem that has meaning to the student?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Is it a problem or question that might actually be tackled by an adult at work or in the community?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students create or produce something that has personal and/or social value, beyond the school setting?



Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)  Does the project lead students to acquire and apply knowledge central to one or more discipline or content areas?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Does it challenge students to use methods of inquiry central to one or more disciplines? (e.g., to think like a scientist)

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students develop higher order thinking skills and habits of mind? (e.g., searching for evidence, taking different perspectives)? 

Applied Learning

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)  Does the learning take place in the context of a semi-structured problem, grounded in life and work in the world beyond school?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Does the project lead students to acquire and use competencies expected in high performance work organizations (e.g., teamwork, appropriate use of technology, problem solving and communication)?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Does the work require students to develop organizational and self-management skills?

Active Exploration

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students spend significant amounts of time doing field-based work?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Does the project require students to engage in real investigations, using a variety of methods, media, and sources?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Are students expected to communicate what they are learning through presentation and/or performance? 

Adult Relationships

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students meet and observe adults with relevant expertise and experience?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students have an opportunity to work closely with at least one adult?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do adults collaborate on the design and assessment of student work?


Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do students reflect regularly on their learning using clear project criteria that they have helped to set?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Do adults from outside the classroom help students develop a sense of real world standards for this type of work?

Description: bullet.gif (921 bytes)Will there be opportunities for regular assessment of student work through a range of methods, including exhibitions and portfolios.






Step 6: Project Tuning Protocol

1. Introduction (1 min)

a. Facilitator briefly introduces protocol goals, norms, and agenda.


2. Teacher(s) present the project (5 min)

a.       What is the current title?

b.      Describes the project (essential question, what will the students learn, what will students do, how long will it take?)

c.       Describes the process of the project (what kinds of support and feedback will the student receive, what are the criteria for success? How will the students exhibit & present their project?)

d.      Provide any models or work samples (if available)


3. Focus Question (1 min)

a.       Presenter poses question(s) to the participants they would like to be answered or discussed.


4. Clarifying questions (2 min)

a.       Clarifying questions have brief, factual answers.

b.      Example: “How were the groups chosen for this activity?”


5. Probing questions (3 min)

a.       Critical friends asks questions in an effort to understand better the presenters’ thinking, decisions, and purposes

b.      Probing questions should not be advice in disguise, such as “Have you considered…?”

c.       Examples: “How did each student demonstrate their understanding by the end of the class?” or “What evidence did you gather to determine if goals of your lesson were met?”


6. Discussion (10 min)

a.       The presenter first reframes the question for the group.

b.      The presenter does not speak for this part but can take notes.

c.       It is a good idea for the presenter to physically move away from the group.

d.      Try to begin with “warm” feedback (What is good about this project?)

e.      Then move to “cool” feedback. (What could be improved?)


7. Response (5 min)

a.       Presenters respond, saying how they now view their project, having heard the group’s response.

b.      It is not necessary to respond point by point to what others said.

c.       The presenter may share what struck him or her and what next steps might be taken as a result of the ideas generated by the discussion.


8. Debrief (3 min)

a.       Reflect on the process of using the protocol. (Was the question clear? Did we answer the essential question? Did we stick to norms? Can participants apply lessons learned to their own projects?)

b.      Resist the urge to turn the debrief back to a discussion of the dilemma.