SOLE Project With Fourth Grade Social Studies

I wanted to end the year in social studies a little differently for my fourth graders. I did not like the textbook at all, so I wanted to do something completely different and away from the book. After reading what Pam did with the first graders, I wanted to try the SOLE project with my class. I discussed it with Andrea and we decided to try it. She shared with me the “toolkit” to help plan our strategy. In a nutshell, the students can research whatever they want to research with little or no teacher supervision.
We started by introducing the students with a video that explained, in a simple manner, what the SOLE project was. Then we jumped right into the activity. The first session we gave the students several questions they could choose to research. They were able to form their own groups and “go for it”. We found out quickly that this really didn’t work too well. (In my opinion, our students are so accustomed to complete supervision that they had difficulty when we gave them none.) There was a lot of discussion, some heated, and group switching, which is acceptable, but there was not a lot of work accomplished. When they presented their projects, some of them said that they had trouble working together.
Andrea and I met again and decided that there had to be a little more structure in order for any work to be done, so we came up with another plan. First, we meet with the class and came up with questions that they were interested in researching about Florida. Then we voted on the questions they were most interested in researching. Then we set a few “rules”. Then, I set aside several classes for research and then the last two sessions were for them to create a poster that illustrated what they had learned. (Yes, a poster, nothing “techy”)
This way of doing things worked much better and the final projects were actually very good; however, next time there are several things I would do do differently. I found out there HAS to be ground rules. I must set the groups because when given a choice the students choose their friends and don’t accomplish as much. Also, I think I need to formulate the questions first, then let the students choose which one they want to research.
This was an interesting way to end the year, but I don’t know if it is the best way to teach all of the time. I believe that students should be given choices, but I think teachers have to also set limits.


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June 2013
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