Monday, March 4, 2013

Lilian Katz: Insights on Project Work

While listening to Lilian Katz - I was able to reflect and think about how we are working with and through project work in our classroom. We are really just "getting our feet wet" with regards to larger scale projects. We have done small projects, but nothing too in depth up to now. Currently we are investigating DANCE as a project in our room. Truthfully, we are not sure how or where to go sometimes, but we know that if we continue to take the children's lead and be reflective as educators it will be a really powerful experience!

I am hoping to read this book - it is on my list as one of the next ones to read! I am in the middle of a book club on "The Art of Awareness", which is also an excellent text.

Thank you so much to Lilian for sharing her expertise with us, to say that we were inspired was an understatement! I hope that you find her thinking as intriguing and helpful as I do in shaping my thinking around working on projects in the early years.

Why Project Approach to Learning?

I would say that Lilian Katz is an “expert” in the Project Approach. Not only has she written an incredible book on the subject, but she has first hand seen the beauty of projects in Reggio, Italy. She explained in our session how beneficial it is for young children to take part in projects. Young children benefit from working on projects for an extended period of time.

What is a Project?

A project looks different in all classrooms and with different groups of children. Most projects include the majority of the class, but can be separated into subgroups within a project. The children may investigate different things within a project. A project is not the whole curriculum.

 A project is “an extended in depth investigation of a topic”

I knew her definition was important...she stressed that we should WRITE it down! And for an intellect who struggles to define things I know that her definition is most certainly well thought out.

Projects are based on interest – what does that mean?

Lilian Katz: “An interest is ... the ability to lose yourself in something outside of yourself”.

“When children’s excitement is so strong we know the topic is worthy”

Finding Balance:

Lilian Katz shared that project work is “never the whole time”. Project work should be balanced with spontaneous play, physical play, and outdoor play.

Steps in Project Work:

 1 – Looking and Noticing

-discuss the topic with students to relate to their experiences

-elicit prior knowledge

-students represent their experiences (in any way that they can or choose to – e.g., draw)

-“drawing is not about art – it is about representing, imagining, thinking it through” Lilian Katz

-looking, noticing, asking ... all contribute to intellectual development

2 – Developing the Project and Collecting Data

-children conduct “field work”

-speaking to experts (prompt: “What do you want them to tell us?” instead of what questions do you want to ask them)

-teachers provide resources to support students (authentic objects, books, magazines, music, websites)

-children continue to represent what they are learning (in any way they choose)

3- Concluding the Project

-students share what they have learned with others

-teachers can support children in preparing for this

-Prompts suggested by Lilian: Who will say what? How are you going to say it? Say it again...I want to be sure the others will understand it

-documentation should tell the story (where we started...what we learned...)

The Benefits of Project Work:

-children are motivated to learn

-academic skills are learned in the SERVICE OF THEIR INTELLECT

-“show me how to write this” – the children begin to become interested in representing their thinking

-investigations involve children in displaying a wide range of skills USEFULLY
STAY TUNED: I will post our beginning stages of our Dance Project.
How does project work look in your classroom? Would love to hear and see projects in other spaces.

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