[Week 2 Reflection] How do you Facilitate Projects?


You and I are in very similar situations. I teach computational thinking and robotics at an independent school. I meet with children in grades JK to 5 for 45 minutes once every 8 day rotation. I have been using Scratch since its inception, but now I only use it with grades 3 to 5. (Grades JK to 2 use unplugged activities and ScratchJr). Over the years I have refined the way I present it and how I want the children to use it. I, too, have developed a blended approach for 4th and 5th grades. Last year I participated in the Early Childhood Certificate program at Tufts and this changed my thinking about the goals for the class - I have come to see that the potential for social-emotional skills is huge.

I struggle with grading as well. There are “set” skills on the report card which involve listening and following directions, making an effort, and understanding and applying skills and concepts. I can make this assessment for every student - it is evidenced in their behavior and their projects, regardless of where they are in the process. But because the 4th and 5th grade are self-paced, I wonder about how to grade them. I am comfortable with everyone being at a different “place” in their work. They are all doing their own personal best. But I have had some conversations with other teachers say that the ones who are progressing more quickly should be given better grades. I disagree. If the children who are working more slowly are on-task and have a thorough understanding of the content, then I believe they are doing well. Am I missing something?

This year there is an expectation that every classroom teacher will collaborate with me to integrate “computer programming” into at least one project that focuses on classroom content. This has added a new challenge not only in what and how I teach, but also in planning and scheduling. Teaching is always a challenge, isn’t it? Flexibility is the key.


I like the concept of having the students debug the games. This is something they can truly relate to. And you can’t beat “pair - share” or partner programming for developing those socio-emotional skills as well as solving the problem of not being able to split yourself into six people so you can be helping students all over the room at the same time.


I love spending a few weeks working through short projects like the ‘animate your name’ task before launching into an open-ended project that asks students to demonstrate everything they’ve picked up from these lessons. Although I get some amazing projects across my desk I do run into a problem where not all students see this creative opportunity as a positive.
In the last couple of years my school has pushed the idea of the ‘Growth Mindset’ and ‘Learning Pit’ to try and encourage students to become risk takers and focus on the learning rather than the end result. Although digital technologies have opened amazing possibilities for students to develop skills and creativity, one of the biggest challenges that I have found is that with tools like Scratch, students’ creative visions can far outweigh their capabilities when given open ended tasks. This leads to a much larger learning pit that can be extremely hard to climb out of.



É uma experiência nova para mim. Atualmente trabalho em parceria com outra professora, propondo a montagem em grupos, de objetos no lego. a partir de uma imagem, nas aulas de Educação Tecnológica, com alunos de 8 anos. Após reflexão desta semana, considero importante, propor a criação livre.


I agree, it’s not always a good idea to just tell the kids (in my case, a Scratch after-shool club), “now you’re free to create”, as most of them will be likely to get stuck.
The initial spark is not that easy so we need to provide them with a series of tools and alternatives: Like you said, “what do you like/like doing best?” is one good question that normally triggers imagination and sets it in action.
The idea of starting by browsing and remixing others’ projects also works for some children. Showing them real-life projects, videos, short-animated films, even reading out loud a good story right before going coding can help.
I also try to show them my own “target project” so they can grasp the general idea, they then are free to adjust, customize…
A relevant topic or a seasonal theme can also work.
The thing is that we’re one of a kind and each of our students have different ways to go creative and we need to be observant and try to guide them :slight_smile:


Yes, this has been my strategy, as well. However, I found that with Arduino, this has been so foreign to them to understand how/why components like resistors are needed, the horizontal & vertical aspects of the breadboard, etc. I am now giving them a very brief overview and will then let them explore and discover.


I love the idea of personal passion projects and am a HUGE supporter of them. The kids tend to produce wonderful work. However, after a couple of years of supporting these projects, I am beginning to see the kids become unengaged and, at times, shut down if they need to work on something that isn’t of immediate personal relevance to them.


Ultimately, I put forward a challenge, often a provocation from a question or discussion with the kids, and our projects grow out of that. Giving kids room to play, think, ask questions, do some hands on discovery and experimentation, is the best way to learn and facilitate further projects.


I work with very young children in a museum setting, so continuity cannot be part of my projects as I never know who will be visiting from week to week. I try to find simple maker projects that focus on individual skills in the hope that, later on down the line, they will have a repertoire of skills to choose from for their own projects.

My other challenge is helping the parents to meet the child where he or she NEEDS help, not where the child wants it or the parent wants to give it. I think this ties into what some of the teachers here are saying about the children wanting to get the “right” answer, or do a project the “correct” way. We need to help parents (our students’ first teachers) be more open to the creativity of their children, even if its not perfect or the same as everyone else’s.


I have never directly used Scratch during my lessons, but I think that it could be a useful digital tool through which you can help students, who have difficulties, to understand what they are looking for their expression. If they don’t want to write or to read, they could express their thoughts through coding or through a digital platform. They can imagine, plan and create how they want.
On the contrary other students can only improve themselves through coding because we are living in a digital world.


I’m still not use to a project-based approach. What’s the opposite approach of a project-based approach? If somebody can help me out, I would appreciate it.


il mio lavoro di insegnante si svolge completamente in laboratorio perciò ho sempre dato molta importanza all’apprendimento per progetti. Fino a circa 8 anni fa insegnavo a studenti dai 16 ai 19 anni e le mie discipline vertevano su applicazioni informatiche alla matematica e alla statistica, perciò i progetti che proponevo erano sempre molto teorici, perchè un obiettivo dì quelle discipline era conoscere i diversi modelli matematici e i vari metodi statistici.
Ora insegno a studenti di 14-15 anni e la mia disciplina è Tecnologie Informatiche. Questo mi lascia molta più libertà di insegnamento.
Lavoro da subito sull’analisi di problemi, a partire da quelli più semplici della vita quotidiana, così da far riflettere i ragazzi sui meccanismi che già inconsapevolmente mettono in atto quando si trovano ad affrontare una situazione problematica, e gradualmente li avvicino alla progettazione. Ma, da quello che ho sentito dire a Mitch nel video, sarebbe meglio cominciare fin da subito a realizzare progetti … questo è qualcosa su cui devo certamente riflettere … mi chiedo se non sia importante lavorare anche sulla consapevolezza e sull’intenzionalità nel realizzare un progetto … crescendo, forse ci si può anche fermare a riflettere prima di agire, o no? Imagine is less than project? IMAGINE, PROJECT, CREATE …
Progettare significa anche costruire dei modelli che poi possono essere perfezionati … a me piace molto modellizzare!
Ogni anno lavoro molto con scratch e l’anno scorso un nostro progetto è stato anche vincitore di un importante premio. Quest’anno ho scoperto però un nuovo strumento, micro:bit, che mi permetterà ancor più di lavorare per progetti, dapprima molto semplici, poi via via più complessi, fino ad organizzare la rilevazione di dati ambientali durante un’uscita didattica in montagna e la loro elaborazione.
Mi piace quello che dice Mitch su scratch, come i suoi mattoncini possano essere paragonati a quelli del lego e quindi come possano favorire lo sviluppo della spirale della creatività … io stessa ho giocato tantissimo da piccola e ora, da adulta, ancora con lego assieme alle mie figlie, ma gioco anche tanto con scratch. Ma trovo che micro:bit sia potentissimo a livello di gratificazione e quindi di consolidamento del processo di apprendimento: poter immediatamente toccare con mano il proprio progetto, il risultato della nostra idea è fantastico. Con scratch la tua creatività rimane sempre “dentro il pc”, con micro:bit la porti fuori.
Quindi il massimo è riuscire a mettere insieme le due cose: usare le estensioni di scratch per micro:bit, muovere gli sprite con i movimenti di micro:bit, usare i suoi sensori ed elaborare con scratch i dati rilevati.
Sono certa che la sfida di quest’anno non sarà coinvolgere gli studenti, bensì riuscire a sviluppare tutti i progetti che proporranno nel poco tempo che ogni settimana abbiamo a disposizione.


I always work in teams with my colleagues and my pupils. I took a lot of courses about creative learning and innovative methods of approaching learning. I strongly support learning by doing and I built my projects using many different methods of materialize activities. The biggest challenge is to embed and combine learning with playing and having good time. The key is again variety of methods. I cannot think of any questions now but my concern is if I can find a pattern to do things faster and easier to prepare…


I have helped students create projects on scratch. The biggest challenge is that some students aren’t motivated to work on the projects. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it is difficult to get them invested in their learning. Another difficulty I have is assessing what the students has learned while working on their projects.


It seems like the opposite would be direct instruction with worksheets and things like that. Also, they mentioned that puzzle based learning as being the opposite in the reading for the week.


The ideal is, that children invent their project ‘from scratch’. But they can inspire themselves also on existing games, do some exercises first. Or work within a theme (for instance: just one word: ‘WATER’. Or: what would you like to change or solve in your neighbourhood? (and try to ‘translate’ this to gameplay and storytelling in a game)

To introduce Scratch, this year we used a lot the new Scratch-cards: the tutorials to make complete games (like Catching apples, Hide and seek, Make it fly…) They are very nice, because there is a lot of interactive gameplay in it. But we also noticed that children tend to produce these games step by step, as an exercise… but nothing more.

The old Scratch cards only showed one concept per card: how to create a score counter, how to make a character walk left and right… (no complete games). Somehow these cards made children more creative: they could inspire themselves on these concepts but had to invent their own game or story with it. We still use them a lot! Also when a child has an idea or question, we sometimes pick one of these cards and say: “why don’t you try to use this?”… and then they figure it out themselves.

Scratch activity cards:

Old Scratch Starter cards:


For the last three years I have been a coach of a FIRST Lego League Jr. team with kids in my neighborhood. Every year they are given a very loose topic and they have to pick what “project” they want to focus on. The main challenge I find as I guide them through this process is to help them pick a project that is “doable” in my mind while at the same time allowing them to not let my thinking constrain their imagination.

To help them I try to suggest paths of thoughts but allow them the freedom to imagine what is possible, I am learning to help them as I think our “adult” preconceive notions quite often limit our kids ability to see the “art of the possible.”


As one of our school’s Makerspace/ELL we had to think about and troubleshoot this problem a lot. Last year, we spent the first couple of weeks observing the students, to see which direction we needed to take our maker. We learned that we needed to start at the beginning. The VERY beginning. We needed to teach our students how to share; materials, ideas, projects. We were able to focus our attention on process and not product.

That became a defining factor for our Makerspace. We scaffolding learning, building each week on the learning of the previous week, again focused on process not product. Even now, as our students are working through the design process, and we are in our second year of making, we continue to focus on the process. This has taken a lot of the pressure off our students and has given them the freedom to explore and take chances.

The actual facilitation this year involves around 10 mins of vocabulary development and instruction, 40 mins or so of making, and 15 mins of clean-up. Most student questions are met with a question in return, to guide their thinking. We are hands-off 90% of the time. If we have to show them a step, we do it on our demo project and side by side as they work on their project. This aspect has been a bit difficult for some teachers and EAs to embrace. Many want to “help,” but end up doing the work for the student. We usually just give them a friendly reminder that we are not interested in the end product, but we are interested in their process.

Another benefit that we have found from the process not product focus is that it doesn’t matter if students don’t finish their product in class time. Many want to take them home to finish, and we encourage that but seeing as we are not grading a product they don’t feel pressure to rush and can really take the time to explore their learning.


One of the great things about working in an elementary school is that we spend so much time with our students. We have the opportunity to notice their likes and interests, which gives rise to the ability to focus on emergent curriculum. Noticing that everyone in the class is really into Minions, allows you to frame your project in a way that includes their interests.

I love the idea of taking this further with your ‘bigger questions.’ I also really like how after modelling the “bigger questions” the students begin to own the learning and do not rely on the teacher as much for guided thinking.


We are lucky in BC because we have Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies as part of our new curriculum. Even without this wonderful curricular area, I have found that if you take the learning you want the students to garner (curricular outcome) and find a project that fits it then you are made in the shade.

Once you do this you will undoubtedly find that you some how managed to find many curricular outcomes covered by your one project. It is a different approach to teaching though, so teachers need to be willing to take that chance. If you are used to lecture/notes model of teaching it is going to seem hard, but set up your project with 10-15 mins of instruction and the rest exploration and the learning will happen.