I am known among my students and colleagues for assigning multistep projects and class work.
In my book New Realms for Writing (ISTE, 2019) I describe a multi genre project blending history and creative writing. For the project students find five primary sources about a specific topic related to World War II and then write five creative writing pieces that bring attention to this aspect of the war. For example, Hitler Youth, Victims of the Holocaust, Technology Advancements of WW2. This project has many pieces to complete. For students who have executive functioning challenges this project is complex and can be overwhelming. This multi genre project requires students to:
- Select a topic within WWII
- Research their specific topic
- Find 5 different primary sources that enhance their understanding of this topic
- Articulate in writing how these primary sources help to understand this time period more deeply and uncover the complexity of WWII
- Write five creative writing pieces, each a different genre, to showcase their understanding of their topic and give voice to the people involved in this war
- Write an author’s note that outlines each of the primary sources and creative writing pieces communicating to readers the important insights gained throughout this process and project
Providing student with small, frequent, attainable goals makes larger tasks look more manageable. In order to prevents students from becoming discouraged by the quantity of work, I created a graphic organizer to help students work through the project in steps. This helps students focus on the parts of the project and increases student willingness and participation. Breaking down multistep projects also increases engagement, effort, and focus.
Checklists are another tool to help students organize and complete multistep projects. Just like the list above of the components of the multi genre project I included above, providing students with an itemized list of the pieces of the project can be beneficial. This content accommodation provides a visual organization strategy that can be laid out as a YES/NO Checklist or using simple bullets and boxes.
For ALL our students to be successful we need to provide them with the appropriate scaffolds that include visual aids and are in alignment with the learning targets. Depending on the student, additional accommodations and scaffolds might include reducing the quantity of the project requirements, providing students with the primary sources and providing student models throughout the project.
Think about the students you teach. Which type of scaffolding, front-end or back-end, is preferable in helping these students meet the learning targets?