At a study group meeting in late December, the sixth-grade social-studies teacher and myself started randomly talking about projects. Soon, we had an idea for a collaboration. After the Christmas break, students would learn about Ancient India. He wanted to do something big for the final project. Something more than a PowerPoint or a poster. We decided that students would make a website to showcase five pillars of Ancient India: government, geography, culture, economy and religion.
The teacher would be responsible for teaching the content and finalizing the rubric for the website. I would show students how to build a website and upload photos, as well as gather resources to help with research and citations.
It was exciting to tackle this project. Eleven and 12-year-olds creating websites? Why not? Our school has adopted the Common Core Modules from EngageNY, and the schedule is so packed, it is challenging to have wiggle room for technology or creative projects. This was a perfect opportunity to give students the opportunity to collaborate and create.
It was vital to make a webquest for this project, a one-stop shop for students to have resources and information for the project. Gathering resources and making tasks was simple. Explaining to students they would make a website is another story.
When I told students they would build a website, many had the deer-in-headlights look. They didn’t think they could do that, and weren’t sure they would be successful. I promised that as long as they tried, they could and would.
After looking at various website builders, Weebly had the best options. It is user-friendly and has the needed safety features for logins and passwords. The teacher can set up student groups with a unique username and password. Students can drag and click text boxes, slideshows, title boxes. Students do not have to code, but arrange these options the way they want on the pages.
We spent about two weeks going over web design best practices and building the foundation (pages with title box and text box for each page). Students then used the LiveBinders resources page for more info about Ancient India and citations. After they wrote out their info, they typed it on the webpage.
Challenges So Far
Going into this project, I thought students would have the hardest time with the aesthetics of the website: too many font choices, not a solid layout. But, I was wrong. Some students were not comfortable putting research into their own words, while a few simply copied and pasted info and didn’t cite at all. For these students, we made appointments to show to read an article, pull out key ideas and put into that info into their own words. After a few tries, the concept clicked with students.
Right now, students have all the research on the site. They are choosing the final themes and font styles/colors. Soon, students will present these to the class and write individual self-reflections on their blogs. It has been so exciting to see self-confidence grow these past few weeks. They are so excited to show their progress and the research they find.
Look for Part 2 of this topic to include: Example of students’ work, students’ self-reflections and ways to make this collaboration project more effective in the future.