Getting Started with the Project Approach
Many educators wonder what is the Project Approach. It is one of the great strategies for teaching gifted and talented students because many of them excel in individual areas. They might not all excel in the same academic areas in one gifted classroom. For example, one gifted student may be gifted in music and math while another is gifted in language arts. The Project Approach allows students to work on the same theme while they develop their own skills and use their strengths.
There are three phases to the Project Approach. In the first phase, when teaching gifted and talented students, you could show them a video, read a book, or view an unusual object. This is called the opening event, and it stimulates interest in the theme or topic the gifted class is going to explore. For example, if you are going to study the Solar System, the opening event might be a telescope in the classroom or a video about the planets.
After the opening event, create a word web that lists things students already know about a topic. Then together as a class, create a list of questions about the topic. This is very similar to the KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) chart that many gifted teachers already use when introducing a topic. Students can add questions as they start to study the topic. The project approach uses many of the same strategies for teaching gifted and talented students that you have already been using.
Project Approach–Phase 2 and 3
In Phase 2, your exceptional learners are doing field work. You may have to explain to other educators, parents, and community members, “What is the Project Approach?” during this phase. Gifted students are collecting data and answers to their questions about the topic. This is perfect for a gifted program because many of your gifted and talented students will be self-motivated and explore the topic on their own. You can also provide field work experiences for the students. You can take them on field trips related to the theme. Guest speakers can come into your classroom and give a presentation to students as well as answer some of their questions. In Phase 2 of the Project Approach, it is important that your students take good notes, learn to organize them, and maybe even make sketches or copies of things they learned. Phase 2 has no time limit, and it goes for as long as you think your students need to explore a topic.
Next comes Phase 3. This is called the culminating event, which means that students present the information they have learned to other students. In a gifted program, this would be easy to do because gifted students could create displays or a skit or speeches to present to students in the regular classrooms. One of the strategies for teaching gifted and talented students is for students to share what they learn and are interested in with others.
Exceptional learners thrive with the Project Approach and can often go beyond where their teachers even imagined.