P-Day Reflection

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During the year we spend each Friday of a five day week working on our P-Day projects.  It is a day that kids get to research the history of their passion.  At the end of the year the kids give a background into their passion, and then share their passion with the class.  This year I did the presentations a bit different.  Usually they are done in my class, this year the team gave the ok to letting the kids take over the last two full days of the year.  The kids created a scheduled that would be two days, five periods each day, five sessions per period, one to three presentations per period.  All the presentations were on a google doc and kids were able to go to whichever sessions they picked.  For two days the kids ran everything that happened on our team.


There were lessons on how to play the Ukulele

Dance classes…and if you look in the background you will see the board that we used to create the schedule before it went up on the google doc.

Lots of presentations on sports.

An awesome sculpting session

A house renovation session which ended with the kids designing their own rooms.

One of the more unique topics ever–turtles!

There were a couple sessions on anime.

A baking demonstration-if you look on the board that is a doc cam being used to show what she is doing.

And a fashion session that ended with kids making tie-dye shirts.

What we do is very similar to the easily googleable Genius Hour or 20% time.  We do ours over the course of the year and present at the end but you can start small.  The very first time I did something like it it was the day before Thanksgiving break.  The kids researched any topic within the 19th Century and shared at the end of class.  The next year we called it 45/45.  The kids got 45 mins to research anything and 45 seconds to present, and the next year with block scheduling we called it 60/60.  For a few years we called it 20% time, and spent Fridays on it, and there were a couple years we had to stop it due to parent input–it was not going to get their kids ready for high school!  I think it was two or three years ago we started calling it P-Day.  It’s middle school, and it’s a catchy title :)

If your are going to give it a try I do have to share a pet peeve.  P-day, Genius Hour, 20% Time should not be time given to your kids to allow them “freedom.”  It should not be a time for kids to express their individuality or allow them to make things.  That should be your class…everyday. I have read way to many posts about teachers giving kids this time to allow kids to have this amazing block of time to offset the rest of the stuff they are “forced” to do in school.  You can do incredibly awesome things during the other 80% of the time.  As a matter of fact…if your class is going well you might even have kids asking you not to do P-Day or to spend their P-Day time working on what you are doing in class.  If you have to do a Genius Hour to get you to believe that kids are capable of doing awesome things on their own with little direction from you–go for it.  What occurs during the time will start leaking over to the rest of your classes.

Again, if you want to give this a shot, start small.  One period.  Take that day before vacation, don’t show a movie.  Give the kids 30 minutes to research. Feel like you are being watched?  Have it be something directly connected to your curriculum.  Research any current event from _______.  Research any topic about _______.  Especially if your kids are used to being led by you.  Wean them off slowly otherwise you will feel like a flop.  If you take a group of kids who are always being told what to do and give them time to do what they want, they might sit there for weeks.  Some of mine sit and tinker for 3-5 months before figuring out what to do!  If you are researching Genius Hour or 20% Time many of the classes and products will blow you away. Don’t get to hung up on the fact that when you give your kids time what they produce does not look the same.  What you get and how it goes will really depend on your kids and their  background.  When my kids start it they have nothing to do…half of each class can barely come up with anything to do.  I am finding that my kids are coming in with fewer interests and passions each year.  What they do list as their passions or interests are activities their parents have put them into.  I was cleaning my room yesterday and found a box with the topics from the very first P-Day ever.  There were topics like alternative fuels, are dreams real, does television rot your brain, and do anti-bullying programs really work.  This year there were things like dance, basketball, and soccer.  P-day is turning into “sharing an activity I do.”  After this year my big question is do I let it ride and see where this goes over the next couple of years, or try to re-direct it so that the topics and presentations become a little less superficial…or is that just my baggage speaking??  Thoughts?

***edit 7/1/14***

A few thoughts on the schedule that we created.  When we made it we thought we were being smart by making certain classes have a theme–sports, arts, etc. We also had a cap of 20 people per session if there were five going on at once, and 25 people if there were four.  This was set by the kids, they did not want too many people in a class watching, and some kids were bringing in supplies and running activities and needed to know a maximum number.  When we started, some sessions had more than 20/25 people and as long as it was ok with the presenter they stayed.  Here was the big problem…by having a certain theme in one room, the same kids that were in session one stayed in session two, which meant if 15 kids stayed, only 5 new kids could enter.  So that was quickly changed on the schedule and by the next day the schedule forced people to move rooms and that led to kids seeking out different choices than they would have normally made.  There might be a sports session in room #1, but the next sports session was in room #5.  Just having the kids get up and move made them reconsider just automatically going to another sports session.

The other thing we had to deal with was the question “What if no one shows up?”  I made final approvals of the schedule and made sure that in each session there was someone who would bring in an audience.  I also tried very hard to set-up time slots with multiple session to have presenters from different cliques so that the audience would be mixed cliques.

Then there was the problem of the sessions that everyone wanted to go to…I tried to put those sessions head-to-head.  So that the numbers in the rooms stayed even.  I also tried to have very different sessions in each time slot so that in any time slot there would be something for everyone.

The last thing we considered is that some kids required more set-up than others.  They were placed in the first sessions, or teh sessions after lunch.

This year I had my smallest team ever!  So we could not fill five sessions for five periods for two days.  If you look at day one, first time period, all kids reported to the room they were going to present in.  The purpose was to check teh set-up of the room, test the technology that they would be using in the room, and to talk with the person going before and after them about how they were going to set-up the room and what needed to be done in between sessions.

I have to say that I was SHOCKED at how few kids decided to present with partners or in groups.  The schedule does not show them, it only has one name from each group/pair.  This years class was done with working in groups by the time they had gotten to eighth grade  :)  There were also probably 5-6 groups that within the two weeks leading up to the days decided to group together because their presentations were so similar, or they were doing things which could be easily added together into one longer presentation.

The schedule at the top of this post might seem so simple, but we put it together slowly over two weeks and takes into account all sorts of middle schoolers needs!

3 thoughts on “P-Day Reflection

  1. Paul,

    I see so much value in P-Day as is! Yes, students were mostly focused on sharing hobbies—but the reality is to be successful and healthy in HS they will need to continue to pursue these activities. Also, having the end of year presentation helps get them into the HS mindset of end of year projects and exams. And, it looked like fun, which is such an important association to make with school. I know the topics seem soft, but organization, planning, preparation, and presentation are challenging skills that students need to succeed in HS and life. If topics are “light” the skill set learned and required is not!

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing! I have done genius hour the past 3 years the week before Christmas break. It is not graded, and at the beginning of the week students can’t imagine completing a project for school, and presenting it to the class and not earning credit. Each year they start with a “I’m not doing this” mentality, but are transformed by week’s end. It is so cool to watch! And yes, many of my students present the history of basketball or the history of fashion, but it is called a personal passion project so who are we to judge?

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