Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Operation Inquiry - Preparing 6th Graders for High School, College, and Life!

6th Grade All-Stars + "Senior Project" = Operation Inquiry! 

At the end of last school year, I had an eye-opening discussion with an Associate Superintendent from my school district.  At the time of the conversation, she had just participated in a local high school's Senior Project.  From her perspective, some students were not totally prepared for the process.  She felt that their presentation and writing skills needed work.  After our deliberation, I devised a plan to implement what I was calling The Bobcat Project.  The Bobcat Project would equip the students at my middle school (our mascot is the bobcat) for their future experiences with the Senior Project (or writing/presenting/researching in general). The students would have to complete the following tasks: 

  • Step 1: The students would have to write a research paper in regards to a self-selected topic.
  • Step 2: The students would have to create a product related to their topic.
  • Step 3: The students would have to convince a panel of judges to "mass-produce" their product (similar to the television show, Shark Tank).  The presentations would be recorded.

I wanted to prepare all of the students in my middle school so I approached my fellow English/Language Arts teachers.  I wanted this to be a collaborative project, a true joint effort.  Initially, they all agreed.  I was ecstatic because this would be an ample opportunity for us to lean and depend on one another.  For reasons outside of my control, my colleagues were not able to participate.  Needless to say, I was definitely disappointed.  However, I wholeheartedly believed in the project so I opted to persevere.  I renamed the project, Operation Inquiry (which means information at work).  I love the new title!

When I first approached my students about Operation Inquiry, they were hesitant.  They were especially reluctant about Step 2.  They could not wrap their heads around the fact that I wanted them to create original products/inventions.  We watched several segments from Shark Tank to get the creative juices flowing.  We also watched numerous clips from The Ellen DeGeneres Show about kid inventors.  

I had the students on board for the most part.  Now, I had to secure the support of my parents.  I held 4 Parent Information Sessions on Monday, March 10th to accommodate my 4 different groups. 

  • 2nd Period Parents/Students - 5:00 PM
  • 3rd Period Parents/Students - 5:30 PM
  • 4th Period Parents/Students - 6:00 PM
  • 5th Period Parents/Students - 6:30 PM

I really enjoyed the Parent Information Sessions because I was able to share my expecations with my parents in an intimate setting.  There was a great turnout for each session.  I learned the importance of providing multiple options for parents.  If a parent could not make their scheduled appointment, they came at another time.  I really did not care what time they came as long as they came.

In an effort to ease nervousness and uncertainty, I had my students to simulate the requirements of the project while we studied our class novel, Dovey Coe.  In the book, the characters visit a Farmers Market.  I had my students to choose a product that they would sell at a Farmers Market.  They had to write a research paper, bring the product, and give a presentation. This was a great way to simulate what I wanted with Operation Inquiry.  Since the students had already navigated the waters with the Farmers Market Project, they could apply the skills that they learned to Operation Inquiry.

Read my next post to read more about the specific projects, presentations, prizes and all of my partners!  My 6th Graders hit it out of the park!(