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Incorporating Passion Projects for More Joy at School

As your partner in literacy, we’re always looking for more ways to bring joy into the classroom and into Reading & Writing Workshop. Passion projects are a fantastic way to give young readers/writers more choices and opportunities to discover the kinds of reading and writing they love most.

What’s a passion project?

Passion projects allow young readers and writers to choose a topic they’re deeply interested in or passionate about and read a lot about it (and maybe even write a lot about it).

Here’s an example…

A few years ago, I finally decided to get a French bulldog puppy. Those of you who know me may know that I had a French bulldog with my ex-wife, so I was already familiar with the breed. Olivia, my old dog, was a rescue from the French Bulldog Rescue Network. I decided that I would get a puppy because I wanted to raise them from the start and had never had that opportunity with Olivia.

After I decided to get my new dog, Sophie, I immersed myself in all things French bulldog and ordered a stack of books to immerse myself in topics from potty training to becoming a good dog owner.

The books were only the beginning. I reached out to the breeder and had lengthy text and email exchanges about the best toys, foods and treats, and the most suitable crates. When the breeder didn’t have the answer, I took my exploration to Google.

Then once Sophie arrived, I realized that these books were not enough. She’d need more training. A puppy in theory, is much different than a real-life puppy. My close friend helped me connect with Sophie’s dog trainer. We got started right away.

I knew I wanted to potty-train her immediately and didn’t want to use pee pads, so I researched how I could get a potty patch for my apartment balcony. Voila! I found Doggy in the city — a company that brings you fresh grass and a box for your dog.

This was my passion project. Sure, it’s still an ongoing interest, but now that Sophie is pretty well trained, I was able to move onto new projects.

Consider where kids are finding enthusiasm right now.

Think about your class and you can probably list plenty of things they’re just wild about — Roblox, Minecraft, Ariana Grande, etc. Now, imagine encouraging your kids to choose a topic they’re so passionate about and then find texts to read on those topics. Sure, some of the texts might be a bit hard for them to access on their own. Might an older sibling or caregiver help them read it? Might we be able to see what digital and physical books are out there on these topics to help them?

When you choose a topic to read about, you’re much more invested in reading, especially if there’s an end goal, such as getting a dog, getting to black belt in karate, wherever that spark may lead.

Last year, some teachers at Rowland Elementary School tried this on during the most challenging time. It was the first few months of remote teaching and COVID. The teachers even wrote their own pieces on the topics they were reading about as a celebration project. The result: Everyone was following their curiosity and the kids just LOVED it!

Here’s Lani Davies sharing her passion project with me during our PD time:

We encourage you to give passion projects a try before the end of the year. By opening up more reading possibilities, you’ll help bring more JOY back into your reading workshop. You might even get kids inspired to write about these topics they are learning about so they can share their knowledge with others!

If you enjoyed this article, share it with your network along with your passion project.

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