Designing Effective Projects : Tapping Prior Knowledge
Written Activities


Learning Logs
Learning logs are an excellent way to get learners to record thought processes, ideas, and questions throughout a project. Learning logs are similar to quick writes and journals but focus on documenting a learning experience. Learners describe what they investigated, accomplished, or learned in an activity or class exercise. Logs are appropriate across the curriculum and at all grade levels. Questions, prompts, or free writes can be incorporated into the learning logs. They can be used by teachers as informal ways to check for learner understanding. Many times, the teacher uses the learning logs as a way to have a written discussion by responding to the learner’s entries and posing more thought-provoking questions. For younger learners, words and pictures can be a way to record ideas and thoughts. These can be written documents that learners maintain throughout a project.  

Example Learning Log
This is an example learner entry based on The Great Bean Race Project Plan.

Question: What do you know about plants?
Learner entry: January 14
I know a lot about plants. We have plants at my house. I know you have to water them or they will die. I know they have to be planted in dirt so they can grow. I know there are lots of types of plants. I know there are ferns. That’s the type of plant my mom has. I know plants grow outside and they are pretty.

Teacher entry: January 15
It sounds like you know a lot about plants. It is very important to water plants and make sure they don’t die. I think it’s great that you know what a fern is. That’s the type of plant I have at my house too. How has your plant been doing?

Question: What has happened to your bean plant since you planted it? Why do you think these changes have happened?
Learner entry: January 30
We planted our bean plant a week ago. It has started to sprout and some small buds are starting to show. We planted it in a soil and clay mixture and decided to water it every day. We are putting it in natural sunlight for part of the day and then in the shade the other part. We thought this would be smart because plants in the outdoors don’t get sunlight all day long and we wanted our plant to grow like the plants outside do. We think our plant has started to grow because we did these things and we know that plants need soil, water, and sunlight to grow.

Teacher entry: February 1
I like your plan that your group has made. It sounds like you are doing many important things to help it grow. I’m glad to hear that you have started to see your plant change and begin to sprout. These are important changes. I’m looking forward to hearing how big your plant grows. Do you think your bean plan is going to help make your plant the tallest? How are the other plants growing compared to your plant?

Question: Why are plants important to humans and animals?
Learner entry: February 10
Our plant is now 10cm high. It’s not the tallest one in the class. We think it’s because we are doing half sunlight and half shade. The race isn’t over yet, so maybe it will grow taller. Before we started studying plants I thought plants were pretty and that some animals ate them for their food. Now that we have planted and studied our own bean plants. I know how important plants are to humans. They give us our oxygen! It’s amazing. Without plants we would die. I did not know that! They also give other animals their food to eat. I knew that! But now I know that they are an important part in the food web. They give us our oxygen but we give them carbon dioxide so they can make food to live. They eat a different kind of food than we do but they need it to live. Plants are very important. More important than I ever thought they were.
Teacher entry: February 12
Wow! You have learned a lot. You knew a lot before we started learning about plants but now you know a ton! Isn’t it amazing that plants give us our oxygen and we help them make food by breathing out carbon dioxide? I was so surprised when I learned that. I’m so glad you’ve learned so much while studying plants!


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