5 Things Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Know About School Projects


You open up your child’s take-home folder, and inwardly groan. There it is — another dreaded school project to complete at home.
What parents need to know about helping kids with school projects.

What are teachers thinking in assigning these things? How much should you help your child? How will they be graded? And how on earth are you going to get your child to complete it on time?

As a mom of 3 and a former teacher, I have some insight that may help you. I’ve bounced my ideas around with a few other teachers, and come up with 5 things that teachers want parents to know about school projects.
1. Why we assign projects
It’s not to drive parents crazy. Really. Our goal is to teach your child, and projects are an awesome teaching method. Projects engage students by giving them choice and by challenging them to think more deeply about a subject. And when kids are engaged in learning, they learn better. Which do you remember more – the worksheets you did in elementary school, or the project or book report you wrote?
2. How teachers grade projects
We typically grade projects with a rubric. You may have seen one of these come home with a project assignment. Even if you don’t get one, that’s probably what the teacher will use.A rubric breaks the assignment down into parts, and clarifies expectations. Typical categories are things like completeness, neatness, quality, etc. There may also be more specific items based on the
particular assignment.
If the teacher sent home a rubric, make sure your child understands it. It’s a great way for both you and your child to check progress.
Some teachers simply grade the final presentation of the project and don’t use a rubric. Others include the presentation as one element of the rubric. So if you aren’t sure, you may want to ask.
3. How we’ll know when you did your child’s project
Simply put, we know our students. A second grade project should look like it was done by a second grader, not an adult. And the second grader will know all about the project, and proudly show off his or her work.
When a kid brings in a project that’s way higher quality than any work they’ve done in the classroom, we’re going to have questions. We’ll inquire about the content of the project, and about who did the work. And if we ask in the right way, kids are pretty honest.
4. But you SHOULD help your child – just in the right way.
I think it’s okay to guide and teach your child, so long as you’re careful to let him or her do the heavy lifting. Help her with time management. Teach her how to use PowerPoint. Drive him to the library. Suggest he sketch a rough draft before writing on that poster. When he’s stuck, ask
leading questions that help him reach the answers he needs to find.
In a nutshell, empower your kids. Let them take the lead, or at least feel like they’re in charge.
Allow them to build their self-esteem by doing their own work.
5. We can’t always be flexible with deadlines
A lot of times we end a unit of study with a project. Sometimes that means that the project is due near the end of the grading period. Experienced teachers will try to give themselves a little time between the deadline and the date they have to turn in grades. It doesn’t always work
out. Please help your child learn to pay attention to deadlines.
Wearing my “mom” hat again for a second, deadlines have helped motivate Liam to finish school projects on time. I ask him what his plan is for getting the work done, and guide him to map out a schedule. Then, I check in with him about how he’s doing compared to the schedule he created.
It’s way better than nagging and cajoling.
School projects are a lot of work, but they’re worthwhile learning experiences. Your child gets to be creative, practice critical thinking, and become an expert on something. Yes, it’s more trouble than
regular homework, but I think it’s worth it.

 

This post is part of the monthly Bloggers for Public
Education Blog Hop. Our topic this month is Projects. For more on this
subject, you may like to read what my excellent fellow bloggers have to say:

Supporting School Projects from 3 DinosaursYou might also want to read these related Books and Giggles posts:

How to Avoid Homework Battles with your Strong-Willed Child

10 Practical Ways to Communicate with Your Child’s Teacher

How to be a Perfect Mom


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6 thoughts on “5 Things Your Child’s Teacher Wants You to Know About School Projects

  • Christy McGuire

    Important points! I am curious how you handled projects done by parents? As a parent I sometimes wort that my children will become discouraged because they compare what they have done independently to what others' parents have done.

    • Heather Post author

      I have the same concern as a parent. As a teacher, I tried to have the kids work on part of the project at school so I could see what they were achieving independently. Then if the project came out vastly different we'd have a "talk" about how that happened.

    • Heather Post author

      I agree with you now that I'm a parent of school aged kids.

      I think one reason teachers send projects home is time constraints at school. Kids work at vastly different paces on their projects, and there is always more curriculum to cover than it feels like there is time for.

      I think different schools handle in-school projects differently too – with some there is a big push for project based learning, and a lot of support for that to happen during the school day. At other schools, projects are used as enrichment at the end of a traditionally taught unit, and less time is available to complete projects in class.