03 March 2014


Isaac had two projects due this week, a timeline and a Reading Fair display.  One was assigned by the teacher, the other was optional -- but when your mom is the librarian and she is hosting a Reading Fair and asking for voluntary submissions, it's not voluntary.

Luckily, the snow helped us get ahead on the timeline project, so we were not rushed to finish everything up over the weekend.  Isaac researched Ellen Ochoa and created a timeline of important events from her life.  He could choose to make any kind of timeline he wanted to, so I found a website that we could make one digitally.  I try to help him find ways to use technology for projects like this, partly to give him the experience and partly to search out new tools that I may want to use with classes.  We used timetoast.com for his timeline.  It was pretty simple, but it has some limitations that will prevent me from using it with students at school, namely it lacks an educator component that would allow teachers to set up student accounts and keep projects private and it is not set up to accept dates for which you only have a year.  Isaac did a good job once he buckled down to work.  We even managed to get it turned in early!

With the timeline out of the way, we focused on his Reading Fair project.  Typically, when I "asked" Isaac if he was going to do a Reading Fair project, he said no.  Then Matt talked him into doing one if I would let him use the new Ripley's Believe It Or Not book that was on the Book Fair.  If it meant he would do a project, I was willing.  Around the same time Isaac was reading a book from the I Survived series by Lauren Tarshish, and on the Book Fair there was a value pack that contained most of the series.  Since I will jump at any opportunity to encourage Isaac to read, we bought the set.  The first one he read was The Attacks of September 11, 2001.  We had visited the memorial over the summer, so I thought the connection may interest him enough to convince him to use that book for his project.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was right.

Because I was pretty much forcing him to do this extra work, I increased the amount of help I was willing to offer.  I let him dictate what he wanted to say while I typed to save both of us aggravation and stress, and oodles of time.  Otherwise, it was Isaac's vision that we used to create the final product.  He had an image of the towers and the smoke and that is what we made.  I was worried at first that maybe it would be too disturbing to recreate that scene in 3D on his display.  But I realized that to him, and to all of his classmates, it is just that -- an image.  It is real to me and the other teachers, but what is more real to Isaac is the hole in the ground and the fountain that we saw a few months ago.  So, we made towers out of foam board and painted them to look grayish-silver, and made smoke from batting and construction paper.  

I was impressed by how Isaac worked on the Reading Fair display, especially since he ended up doing it so willingly, as opposed to the cajoling and whining that was involved in getting the timeline completed.  The difference, I am sure, was the connection he had with the book and the fact that, despite my initial mandate, it was something he chose to do.  Because, really, if he had fought me on it, I would have caved.  

We ended up having fun working on it together and he felt a sense of accomplishment when it was ready for display.  It wasn't the most elaborate or polished project submitted, but it was genuinely his work.  It is something he is proud of and is a boost to his confidence.  And it makes Mom feel pretty good, too.


  1. I'm glad to see a positive account of student projects. Ryan is in PreK at Washington Montessori, and we just had to do a project this month! I was shocked, but it turned out fine (by which I mean it was acceptable and involved no tears!). I've been dreading projects--especially science fair ones. The book project sounds like fun, actually--much more fun than a science project!

  2. We haven't done science projects the past couple of years at school. Everyone dreads them, especially teachers. I am really trying to step back and let the work be his, not just something I have done most of the work for that has his name on it. I think choice is important in making a project palatable for the kids, and something that they really connect with. The timeline was just something to get finished, but the book project was something he was more invested in because ultimately it was his choice to do or not.