Project-Based Writing by Liz Prather. Teaching Writers to Manage Time
Project-Based Writing
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Project-Based Writing

Teaching Writers to Manage Time and Clarify Purpose

By Liz Prather
Foreword by Cris Tovani

Using the tenets of project-based learning, Project-Based Writing provides a 7 step structure to conceive, manage, and deliver writing projects built upon student voice and student choice. 

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Full Description

The idea that students should be “college and career ready” when they leave high school has become a major focus in education, but much of this conversation has been on reading readiness.  What about writing readiness? 

Liz Prather argues that we can set students up for future success when we help them learn to care about what they’re writing, and help them manage their time to write. “I needed a framework for teaching writing that would keep my students accountable and engaged,” Liz explains, “but would allow them to write from their own passions, and instill in them an understanding of time management, goal setting, and production.  By adding the tenets and practices of project-based learning, I could simultaneously protect the creative processes of my students while helping them learn to manage long term writing projects, the kind of projects they would be doing in college or in a career.”

Project-Based Writing provides a 7 step structure to conceive, manage, and deliver writing projects built upon student voice and student choice.  Liz includes classroom-tested strategies for helping kids persevere through roadblocks, changes in direction, failed attempts, and most importantly, “anticipate the tricks of that wily saboteur, Time.”  Both practical and inspirational, Project-Based Writing teaches kids the real-world lessons they need to become real-world writers.

“With this book, you will quite likely become the person students remember as the one who taught them how to write.”—Cris Tovani

Contents

Chapter One: The Journey to Project-Based Writing

Writing as an Individual Process
Cute, Single Writing Process Seeks Robust Project Management Framework
How to Use This Book
A New Paradigm

Chapter Two: An Overview for Project-Based Writing: A Framework in Seven Steps

Discovering an Idea
Framing the Work
Planning the Work
Doing the Work
Reframing the Work
Finalizing the Work
Revealing the Work
A Word About Failure and the Evolution of Writing
Recognizing Student Exigencies

Chapter Three: On Community: The Key to Building a Project-Based Writing Classroom

Start with Story
Embrace Transparency
Champion the Uniqueness of Your Approach
Establish a Happy Communal Space
Root Yourself as Part of the Community
Launch a Shared Narrative Space
A Final Word on Community

Chapter Four: Discovering an Idea: The First Step of Project-Based Writing

Cultivate a Practice of Noticing
Cultivate a Practice of Writing
Ten Tools for Generating Ideas
Just Pick One Already

Chapter Five: Framing the Work: Developing a Pitch and Proposal

How Do Students Pitch?
How Do Students Write a Proposal?

Chapter Six: Planning the Work: Project Goals and Project Scheduling
How Do Students Create Project Goals?
How Do Students Create a Project Schedule?
How Does Planning Lead to Self-Discovery?

Chapter Seven: Doing the Work: Individual Studio Time, Project Conference, and Project Library

What Is Individual Studio Time?
How Do Students Set Up a Project Library?
How Do You Conference with Students About Projects?
A Final Word on Dedicated Writing Time

Chapter Eight: Reframing the Work: Inquiry Draft, Inquiry Questions, Annotations, and Say-Back Sessions

Inquiry Week: An Overview
Creating Good Inquiry Questions
How to Read, Annotate, and Respond to an Inquiry Draft
What are Say-Back Sessions?
Sarah’s Say-Back Session: An Example
Weighing Say-Back Data

Chapter Nine: Finalizing the Work: Final Draft, Project Reflection, and Individual Evaluation Form

What Matters as Students Revise the Final Product?
How Do Students Compose the Project Reflection?
How Do Students Create the Individual Evaluation Form?
How Does a Final Evaluation Support Failure?

Chapter Ten: Revealing the Work: Community Score and 4P

How Do Students Evaluate Each Other’s Projects in Community Score?
How Do Students Go Public with Their Projects?

Chapter Eleven: The Big Picture: Terms, Practices, Structures, Standards, and Grading

Four Project-Based Writing Terms: Process, Product, Project, and Practice
Project-Based Infrastructure: Four Perennial Practices
Project-Based Structure: The Seven Steps
Standards and Grading
On Mastery and Failure

In Depth

In the last decade, project-based learning has become a laudable model for student choice and learner-directed education. The framework is simple: students choose a problem to solve or a question to answer, and through self-directed investigation, they solve the problem or answer the question and learn new skills along the way. Students work in groups and individually. At the end of the project, students unveil a product that represents what they’ve learned. And they show off that project to people outside of the classroom — parents, scientists, city planners, engineers, or businesspeople (Krajcik and Blumenfeld 2006).

The projects are complex, multitiered, nonlinear, and always real-world. Students are involved in every level of the project, from the framing of the initial problem, to setting goals, to determining instructional activities. Teachers facilitate these projects, but they don’t control the process or even issue any explicit goals. The students do all that good, good work.

The research on project-based learning concludes that students in this instructional framework feel more ownership of their own learning and report having higher attendance, more self-reliance, and more retention of core subject material. In addition, students gain greater problem-solving abilities when learning information through its application (Vega 2015; Thomas 2000; Krajcik and Blumenfeld 2006).

In a true project-based classroom, students are in control. If this gives you hives, I understand, but it’s not the frat-party-meets-prison-break you might imagine. Student-centered means that students’ questions become the focus of learning. Their desire to learn creates a need to know, and in the midst of that energy, they solve problems, analyze data, think critically, and develop soft skills like self-control and tenacity.

Project-based learning was the framework I’d been looking for to simultaneously protect the creative processes of 148 students while helping them learn to manage long-term writing projects, the kind of projects they would be doing in college or in a career. I realized by transferring the project-based learning tenets into a regular English classroom, my students could develop skills to become independent readers and writers.

Enter project-based writing. In project-based writing, students manage their writing project with systemized external supports like pitches, proposals, project goals, and schedules, but the process remains wholly the student’s, and the resulting product is also the student’s from conception to rendering to delivery. The steps of all writing projects are clearly parallel with the steps of project-based learning.

References:

Krajcik, Joseph S., and Phyllis C. Blumenfeld. 2006. “Project-Based Learning.” In The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, edited by R. Keith Sawyer. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Thomas, John W. 2000. A Review of Research on Project-Based Learning. www.ri.net/middletown/mef/linksresources/documents/researchreviewPBL_070226.Pdf

Vega, Vanessa. 2015. “Project-Based Learning Research Review.” December 1

 

Samples

Supporting Materials

The Seven Steps for Project-Based Writing

Discovering an Idea: The First Step of Project-Based Writing

Framing the Work: Developing a Pitch and Proposal

Planning the Work: Project Goals and Project Scheduling

Doing the Work: Individual Studio Time, Project Conference, and Project Library

Reframing the Work: Inquiry Draft, Inquiry Questions, Annotations, and Say-Back Sessions

Finalizing the Work: Final Draft, Project Reflection, and Individual Evaluation Form

Revealing the Work: Community Score and 4P

The Big Picture: Terms, Practices, Structures, Standards, and Grading

Reviews

As I read Liz Prather's book, I thought to myself, “This teacher-author knows me.  She knows my struggles.  She knows what I care about as a writing teacher, and most importantly, she knows the wide range of students I teach."  Liz shows teachers how to balance authentic, engaging writing instruction with the responsibility of meeting standards to prepare students for college and beyond.  She understands that choice drives engagement, and that when students have a purpose or an opportunity to investigate something they are curious about, the desire to write well increases. --Cris Tovani, author of I Read It, But I Don't Get It

In Project-Based Writing, Prather takes bold steps toward Donald Murray's vision for the writing classroom -- one buzzing with the energy and ethos of a newsroom full of writers pursuing their passions in many different forms. This book is full of the practical tools teachers need to help their students manage the monumental task of writing: calendars, checklists, guidelines for peer feedback, practical solutions for assessment. Prather's humor, writerly wisdom, and flexible approach to the writing workshop will develop students' skills and courage so they can tackle any writing task they can dream up.—Rebekah O’Dell, coauthor of Writing With Mentors

This book is full of gifts. The gift of Prather's engaging, often humorous, smart-as-heck writing. The gift of tools for both teacher and student—book lists, calendars, forms—to help them manage the deeply individual process of writing. The gift of copious use-in-your-classroom tomorrow activities and exercises to build and nurture a writing community. But perhaps the most special gift of all is Prather's genuine belief that students have the ability to create and self-direct—and her absolute dedication to providing them the space and time to do just that.
—Allison Marchetti, coauthor of Writing With Mentors