Projects (part 5)

Part 5

Tips and examples of projects

Before we look at specific projects, let's describe two parts of projects: Where and What.

Where can we see the project?

What is in the project?


The teacher has power to decide where the students' projects will go:

Posters on a wall

notice board (bulletin board)

in a box

on a CD or DVD

on a door

above the urinals

next to the toilet roll

near the water fountain

wherever people stand in line

in a discussion

on a shelf

on the whiteboard

on a TV screen

on a computer monitor

in a binder

in a Facebook group

on a blog

on a website

on Youtube

the “I want to remember this” (IWTRT) journal, diary or log

the “This is important” issues book


The content is important, too. What will appear in the spaces (the “Where”)? The teacher transforms the classroom into a newspaper office. Students are the reporters and editors, finding words, videos and photos and cutting them, piecing them together in new ways.

The teacher can encourage students to post many types of content:










job assignments in the class?

The students can learn to edit videos, create websites, YouTube channels, Facebook groups and page, and blogs, and gain new skills while using projects to explore the curriculum.

Special note about the “I want to remember this” (IWTRT) journal and the “This is important” issues book: Perhaps they are the same binder. When the teacher/facilitator finds an article that is important to her, she puts it in the binder marked “IWTRT” – the “Tunafish are overfished” articles are in my IWTRT binder. Why not encourage students to find issues that matter to them and THEN build the curriculum (math, science, literature, writing, languages, history) around those issues?

Note: To keep the interest of the students, quotations and other posted materials can be moved around the room once a week (or placed in storage for two weeks and then returned to be displayed in another location). The teacher can assign or request students to do the moving of the materials – and this task of moving turns into a learning moments, since the students can look at each item and decide, “Marsha's poster would look good over there – most people couldn't see it when it was on the back of the door.”

The purpose of this book now becomes clear: Most teachers focus on WHAT happens in the classroom (the content of the class). This book (especially the quotes, the excerpts from Neil Postman's book and the quotes from Littky) asks you to focus on procedures and the WHERE of the class. Where can students perform their understanding? Where can they express themselves? What locations will you release to the control of students? Please: let students take over walls, websites and more.


Teachers of English as a foreign language are always seeking “the perfect textbook.” “If only I could get xxx, then the class would flow more.” Some teachers point to a book by Raymond Murphy (Grammar in Use) and its companion (Vocabulary in Use) and say, “That's a wonderful book.” That's the WHAT, the content of the class. I remember when I was a new teacher of English – I bet everything I had in that book (I was certain that my classes would be stunning and fantastic because I was using Murphy!) and I was puzzled why some students did not see as much value in the book as I did. (Why were those students bored? What more could I do to please them?) After all, Murphy's grammar book has everything that you'll need to learn English. However, if the only content in the class is in that book, then the students are ignored. My mentor Cary Elcome reminds me, “We often forget the most overlooked resource in the school: the students. We ought to close the textbooks, turn off the teacher talk and ask students to talk and share their concerns and let them practice speaking. Instead of forcing in another week of grammar, why not allow them to speak and reveal their grammar gaps as well as their passions?”

In other words, finding a great textbook will help make the class more interesting because YOU the teacher are more excited and passionate about WHAT is poured into the room. Why not expand the WHERE of the class? Let's release control and offer other places for the students to perform their understanding. You found great content (books, websites, videos) gradually transfer to the students the responsibility for their own learning through projects.

One of my students worked for a week to create this kaleidoscopic poster.  (Thank you, Ane and Irene).    Contact the artist:

Tip: Read Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner

We want to make several bizarre proposals that are designed to change the perceptions of teachers now functioning in the schools.   

Declare a five-year moratorium on the use of all textbooks

Have “English” teachers “teach” Math, Math teachers English, Social Studies teachers science, Science teachers Art, and so on.

Transfer all elementary teachers to high school and vice versa.
 Require every teacher who thinks he knows his “subject” well to write a book on it.

Dissolve all “subjects”, “courses”, and “course requirements”.

Limit each teacher to three declarative sentences per class, and 15 interrogatives.

Prohibit teachers from asking any questions they already know the answers to.

Declare a moratorium on all tests and grades.

Require all teachers to undergo some form of psychotherapy as part of their in-service training

Classify teachers according to their ability and make the lists public.

Require all teachers to take a test prepared by students on what the students know.

Make every class an elective and withhold a teacher's monthly check if his students do not show any interest in going to next month's classes.

Require every teacher to take a one-year leave of absence every fourth year to work in some other “field” other than education.

Require each teacher to provide some sort of evidence that he or she has had a loving relationship with at least one other human being.

Require that all the graffiti accumulated in the school toilets be reproduced on large paper and be hung in the school halls.

There should be a general prohibition against the use of the following words and phrases: Teach, syllabus, covering ground, I.Q., makeup, test, disadvantaged, gifted, accelerated, enhancement, course, grade, score, human nature, dumb, college material, and administrative necessity.

More tips from Teaching as a Subversive Activity

Chapter 12:  So what do you do now?

1. Write on paper these questions:  What am I going to ask my students to do today?  What is it good for?  how do I know?

2. In class, avoid telling your students any answers.  Do not prepare a lesson plan.  Instead give your students a problem which might interest them  Allow them to work the problem through without your advice.  Your talk should consist of questions directed to particular students, based on remarks made by those students.  If a student ask you a question, tell him that you don't know the answer, ever if you do. Don't be frightened by the long stretches of silence.  Silence may mean that the students are thinking.

3.  Try listening to your students for a day or two.   We do not mean reacting to what they say.  Any questions you ask would not be designed to instruct or judge.  They would be attempts to clarify what someone has said.  

4.  Ask your students to discuss an issue about which they have strong feelings.   But their discussion has an unusual rule applied to it:  A student may say anything he wishes but only after he has restated what the prrevious speaker has said to that speaker's satisfaction.  Students find themselves concentrating on what others are saying to the point of forgetting what they themselves were going to say.    

5.  Tell your students that all of them will get an “A” for the course.  At first, the students will not believe you.  Eventually, the students can begin to concentrate on learning, not their grades.   There is no need for them to ask, "When is the midterm?" "Do we have to do a paper?"  "How much weight is given to the classwork?"    Then help the students discover what kind of knowledge they think is worth knowing and help them decide what procedures can be used to find out what they want to know.  You will have to remind your students that there is no need for them to make suggestions that they think will please you.  There is no need for them to accept your suggestions.  

Most students will pursue vigorously whatever course their sense of relevance dictates.  There are always a few who will view the situation as an opportunity to "goof off."  So what?  It is a small price to pay for providing the others with perhaps the only decent intellectual experience they will ever have in school.    The number of students who goof off is relatively small compared with those who, in conventional school environments, tune out.  There is no way to predict what syllabus your students will evolve.  It depends on them.  If you prefer, you could try this experiment (“everyone gets an A”) on a limited basis for two weeks or for one special assignment.

We propose a shift in emphasis in the roles of teacher and student, a change in the nature of the classroom environment.   The facilitator allows the students to pursue that which is relevant to the learner.  

(Permission to reprint this information -- THE WORDS ABOVE IN GREEN -- was requested from the publisher of Postman's book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity.)



What can a teacher do to make a class more interesting? What can a teacher show to a group of students? Perhaps this list is enough. Photocopy a few pages from this list and put the photocopies on a door. Write “5 extra points if you complete one of these projects to your satisfaction” at the top of the photocopies. Ask a few students to read the list and to select one or two projects to work on. Perhaps the idea will spread like a fire.

Project:  Create a list of EDUCATIONAL and INSPIRING videos, songs and websites. and are sites to use and volunteer for...  If you submit a video URL (link) with an explanation, you can help thousands of parents find good piece on the Internet.


Beauty of Borobudur Temple  

Bizarre Foods - Asia  3/5  DerfMix

How volcanoes form  HeinemannVideo

Word's Best-Nature's Fury  Gushing Geysers   Travelworld

Human Reproductive System  The Cychoz

Cell Biology  phoenixfilmandvideo

hahaha helps lung system exercise its function   Blackoleg

fact or faked  paranormal files  Dasham Chupacabra   by Paranormal

selected by Alvinique Brown

and Markevia McGriff

YOU CAN BECOME a contributor.... Learn more at the websites

Project: watch some videos, download the videos, edit parts together and add narration and credits. Explain to the viewer what is important about the excerpts.

Example: How does a car work? Students can find information and write a description, print explanations from the Internet, make a video with a car (showing the parts), visit a garage and interview a mechanic.

Project: Make Fewer Rules.  Rule-making for operating the class can become a project. What are the rules of the class? Why does the class need to follow ONLY the rules stated in the school? Perhaps there are rules that the school made that can be summarized by a simpler rule that the students can describe and adopt. Dennis Littky starts his school each year with an intense workshop, asking the stuents to come up with rules that make sense to them. Enforcement is easier, since the kids accepted these rules at the beginning of the school year.

Some teachers ask, “Why do you use projects in your classroom? Isn't it easier to put the information on the whiteboard or hand out photocopies?” Yes, when I was a new teacher, I was concerned about my performances, about my ability to deliver information to the students. I learned that some students are ready to receive and absorb information when I delivered it in that way. Other students were bored, so I learned from people like Dennis Yuzenas (, Littky, Jeff Hutt, Tony Lloyd, Leslie Lott, Cary Elcome and Abraham Fischler ( to put my efforts into proposing projects... and then students started to propose their own projects.

Students need projects...

to provide opportunities for students to experience “team building”;

to provide experience for students to build their resumes (CV, curriculum vitae);

to provide opportunities for students to serve as mentors to their peers and near peers;

to provide opportunities to make connections (building social intelligence skills);

to reinforce and apply information that was learned in classrooms and in textbooks.

Do you need more ideas for projects? Look at the list located at or click on the link “Bond Create Discover Explore” at

Project: Make a video.

Dennis Yuzenas writes: The project-based classroom requires projects. Sometimes one comes along that really suits the bill. The YouTube sponsored What's Your Issue contest is a perfect project.

From the website For 2010 – our 5th year — we’re outreaching to 200 million young adults 14 to 24 to create and submit local solution-project ideas to front-burner issues, submitted digitally via three-minute videos accompanied by a one-sheet project outline.   Winning solutions – picked by an illustrious VIP Jury and the public, online – will be presented to senior officials within the Obama administration and the Republican National Committee.

Apple, Best Buy and YouTube Video for Change have joined us for 2010 as our premiere partners in this massive outreach to engage youth in solution-finding, with collaboration and participation of The Corporation for National & Community Services, American Red Cross, NAACP, Association of American Colleges and Universities, Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and others.

Tom Brokaw is heading our VIP Jury Leadership Committee, as Distinguished Honorary Jurist. Joining Tom are Deepak Chopra, Jack Black, Yoko Ono and the heads of The Oprah Winfrey Network, NAACP, Apple, Sony Pictures and others. Our historic roster of past Jurists includes Senator Barack Obama, Walter Cronkite, Wolf Blitzer, George Clooney and Anderson Cooper.

Jack Black is our inaugural VIP Jurist for the new “Issue Song” competition. We’re looking for 3-minute songs from young adults 14 to 24 on any issue that burns for them, because we believe in the power of music to touch hearts and change minds – and we believe in music-making.

Winning videos and songs will also be presented at a VIP reception in Washington, DC, at our annual Awards Ceremony co-hosted by Sony Pictures at its Los Angeles studio, on iTunes – and on screens in every Best Buy store on the planet! Prizes also include a MacBook and iPhones.

The Issue Song winner will also be presented to 70,000 industry leaders at the annual NAMM conference, and the winners will be included in a compilation CD of emerging artists in partnership with Band Together. Proceeds will benefit Gulf Coast recovery. (We are also hoping that a few VIP Music Jurists will record versions of winning songs.)

We have defined seven front-burner issues for 2009-2010: environment, education, healthcare, pathway from poverty, national security and defense, public service, human and equal rights issues.

Our catch-phrase – and if you don’t like it, come up with a better one! – is that our initiative is at the nexus of digital video media, user-generated-content, the internet, social networking, public service and activism, specifically geared to millennial young adults 14 to 24.

We also see problem-solving as an act of leadership and entrepreneurship and social entrepreneur. To that end, we are launching Y/E – the Young Entrepreneur Network. Y/E will provide valuable resources, content and tutorials from our partners to support leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

The submission period begins mid-January 2010, and runs through early April, 2010. Voting follows shortly thereafter, and winners announced in May 2010. Submit your email for updates as we move closer to launch!"

Cutting to the Chase
Sarah won with her entry: Shark Finning. Here is the page the students started with:

Project:  Build a Communications Technology Lab

By Francois Savain

When I was at Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes, I was assigned a room about 75 feet by 75 feet (5000 sq. feet) filled with equipment related to communications.  Students went from station to station, learning how to use an embroidery machine, scanner, screenprinter, computers, digital photography, audio production and mockup software.   At the end of eight weeks they had the skills necessary to take an idea from a sketch through design and layout to production.  Students learned to use Photoshop, Pagemaker, MS Office suite, 3DStudiomax and AutoCAD Lite.   Their assessment was based on what they produced, such as an embroidered shirt, and their log notes and descriptions of their work were stored in portfolios.  This system of mixing white-collar and blue-collar skills leads to integrated learning across multiple disciplines and is applicable to virtually any curriculum.  For more information, you can contact me at    Let's make hands-on learning a central part of every school.


A book like this is based on the work of hundreds of people. In the past twenty years, I've attended dozens of conferences. I look for any excuse to visit schools and I've picked up tips by looking at the walls of hundreds of classrooms. When I visit a school, I make an effort to walk into at least ten classrooms, looking at forty walls, scanning for ideas. I ask teachers for “what works” and “how did you get the stuents to produce this work? What words did you say to motivate them to do such wonderful drawings?” Thanks to the generous natures of those teachers and their willingness to share their procedures, you have access to some fabulous tips.  -- Steve

Tip: Use Google Documents to share files  

By Anthony Lloyd

A Gmail account comes with access to a suite of programs that are free. Yes, they are available only when you are online. The key advantages are a) the files are less likely to be lost that if you store the items on your hard drive or a pen flash (small flash drive). The flash drive could be lost, a CD, if burned, could be scratched, lost or stepped on. A google document is (almost) forever. As creator of the document, you can allow others to read it or edit it. This is a great way for students to work together. The process of writing is actually a lot of RE-writing. You can document the changes by saving previous versions. The teacher also has access to the document. Students who are confused about what is expected can look at previous projects to get an idea what's been done by other.

Tip:  Ask students to teach their elders about what they know...particularly about the Internet. 

By Iain Barraclough

Iain is what teachers and parents might strive to be: experts in any field in addition to education. Yes, it's important for parents (and student) to know how to learn. It is often an outside expert who sees something that we teachers miss. That's why it is essential for teachers to read Dan Pink, Malcom Gladwell and Thomas Friedman as well as other non-professional educators. These authors are actually experts on how to prepare for lifelong learning, but they have prescriptions for building better schools that might work....if implemented. Now, if we could just find someone who could apply these methods and then reach a dozen teachers...hey, how about you?

Tip: Volunteer work for students (and teachers? Parents?)

I sent the following letter to several high schools in my city:

Dear High School Counselor

I volunteer at Sunland Park Elementary.   They need volunteers.   I have a program called “Breakfast with Mentors”  from 7:15 to 8 am.   Do you think some students might come by for service hours?   They can be flexible    7:15 to 7:45 and then walk or bicycle back to their highschool.   Let me know who is in charge of volunteer or community service at your high school  Thank you.

That's what I sent to a teacher at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. Why not try something similar for your students?

Here are the videos that explain what my team of volunteers does:

Part one (6.5 minutes)

Part two (7 minutes)

Tips: Websites for Teachers

Convert PDF to text ONLINE

File Juicer to convert PDF to text. Cost ujder $20 (2010)

Convert a youtube video (.flv format) to a video we can use (.mp4 or .mov) (a little program that sits on your webbrowser) converts the video and then sends a message with a link to your email account. Click on the link, then click on the “download” button and you have the video or mp3 document in your computer's download folder.

Dennis Yuzenas recommends: Useful analysis. His website give you some ideas about what to put on your website. Yes, every teacher can have a free website, maintained by a student.

Tip: The Five Skills

(attributed to Thomas Friedman)

(to be written)

Recommended reading: Hot Flat and Crowded, The World is Flat (especially after page 309), and his columns on “Super Frugal, Super Broke, Super Power” (distinction between desirable and vital), “The New Untouchables” (what it takes to become indispensable) and

Tip:  Let the students define their studies

Interview with Celest Joseph

Students sometimes walk in with enormous problems.   I let them know that they can use the classtime to sort through whatever is going on in their lives.   If they don't want to be there, I'll write a pass.  If they just need to sit and think about something, I'll find them a quiet corner.  If they need to work something out emotionally with paper and paint, I'll get them the materials and let them work

Celest Joseph teaches at Dillard School of the Arts. His Advanced Placement students routinely earn college credit and say, “This is one of the best classes I've ever taken.” He can be reached at

TIP: Students pick up more from us than just the content of our lessons. A casual comment can damage or reinforce a kid's world.

Interview with Cary Elcome -- Cary tells this story: There was a kid who didn't do well in the preparation for standardized tests. “Boys like you are not destined to go to University,” intoned one of the kid's teachers.  It took the kid twenty years to realize that the teacher was not right. The kid, now an adult, earned a certificate from Trinity College and became a certified trainer, teaching people to become English Language teachers. That teacher had decided to be a gatekeeper and he used psychological intimidation to dissuade the kid from finding some way to get into university and “make something of himself.”

"Many teachers have no idea how powerful their words are. That SOB knew exactly what to say to intimidate me and destroy what little self-esteem I possessed at that time. He wanted to keep people like me from aspiring and joining his class.”

Tip: Walk around. Leslie Lott, a curriculum developer for Cambridge University Publications with decades of experience as a teacher and director of schools, drops in on classes, finding any excuse to listen to her teachers. Her belief is that time spent with students and observing teachers is the core of caring administration and the most-overlooked aspect of running a school. Her employees often comment on how helpful it is to have someone in administration who remembers what it is like to teach (and who continues to work as a substitute teacher).

Tip: Expect some students to “get it” and others to be confused. The use of portfolios can disrupt the expectations of some students (and administrators). The portfolio system (with an individual education plan, which appears in the Free Materials, Part 4) inspired an administrator to write: Some of the students understood your system but many thought it was strange, chaotic. The teenagers liked your methodology possibly because it allowed them complete freedom to do as they wished. The energy and passion you bring to the classroom is excellent. However, your lack of regard and respect for the school's curriculum, methodology and personnel is unfortunate.

Advocates of student portfolios and student control of the curriculum can find solace in the suggestions from Neil Postman's writings that appear at the end of this section.

Tip: Show students how to use grammar checking software in a creative way

Here is a passage that has some typos and grammar errors. When I placed it in a grammar checker (, the only items captured were names of the author and the book. When I placed this paragraph in Microsoft Word, the following words were highlighted:   

Naisbitt’s broad look at intuition and its’ application to today’s’ society lets us begin to think the impossible is with in reach. For one to place their money in the hands of brokers, and banks a combination of trust, data assessment, and intuition in what could be the blind. We are an on the go society so we look to others whom we consider data experts to keep our valuables safe. Most of us rarely read our statements and no idea what that $2.00 charge is for.

When it comes to our health we must deal with data driven information. With this thought in mind our Doctors must have a sense of intuition to predict those little things that we can’t explain. The space Shuttle is one of mans greatest inventions. With the count down and all the immense data their has to be one individual who has the power to say my gut says that something is wrong shut it down. In the text (Futuring, 211) nations such as South Korea, and Singapore

Tip: Use  By Ben Udy

Two-thirds of the world operates on a shoestring or less. The suite of programs that come with a Gmail account are fabulous – but only if you have cheap Internet access. I use GIMP instead of Photoshop, Linux instead of Windows and OpenOffice instead of Microsot Word. Why not make a contribution to thank Sun Systems for creating a free offline word processor?

Ben Udy runs a school in Honduras, inspired in part by John Corlette, Kurt Hahn, the Round Square philosophy and numerous teachers at Aiglon College.   He never went to college, so he joins the ranks of Jobs, Gates, Ellison and others who altered the planet with their entrepreneurial efforts.   He invites anyone to visit his school’s website and consider making a donation, coming down to teach what you know and learn more about Honduras.


Project:  A Portfolio of Quotes

Students are asked to write or talk about a quotation.  They get a point for each quote.  The points turn into something valuable.

Portfolio of __________________________________________  (name)

This page goes into your portfolio.  Your portfolio is a collection of your thoughts and work.  Future teachers and potential bosses can look at materials in your portfolio and learn about your skills.   Each day, you can earn an “international point” –  let’s talk about how these points can turn into something valuable to you.

           Write at least two sentences about what this quote means to you

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.
George Washington Carver

Point (____)


How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.
George Washington Carver

Point (____)


When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.
George Washington Carver


Points on this page    ___

Point (____)





Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.
George Washington Carver

No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving something behind.
George Washington Carver

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books.
George Washington Carver

Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible.
George Washington Carver

There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything.
George Washington Carver

When our thoughts - which bring actions - are filled with hate against anyone, we are in a living hell. That is as real as hell will ever be.
George Washington Carver

George was exceptional in that he knew how to teach himself through observation, questioning, and experimentation. He used his mind and scientific knowledge to benefit others. He is known as the father of synthetics. He created hundreds of products including: adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, cheese, chili sauce, creosote, dyes, fuel briquettes, ink, instant Coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, shampoo, shoe polish, shaving cream, synthetic marble, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, wood stains, wood filler, and Worcestershire sauce, and many more. Of the hundreds of new and improved products George Washington Carver discovered, he only patented three of them.

TIP:  Listen to students

Ask some students, "How do you like to learn?"  Ask them to tell you their ideal learning environment, then brainstorm ways to make it happen.  Ask them "What do you want to do with your time in this class?  What do you want to show at the end of the course?"

Interview with a French Student

More Projects (Cary Elcome)

Jeff's Projects

Subpages (1): Toulouse Student