Upper Elementary’s Got Something to Propose…

In the Upper Elementary program, students are encouraged to direct their own learning as much as possible – from choosing topics for research or experiments,
formats for finished projects, or collaborators for group work. One tool used to structure and facilitate effective self-direction is the proposal paragraph.

A proposal paragraph begins by stating who will be working on what. Next, the exact content of the research or investigation is described, whether that is topics for
research of an ancient civilization, or a scientific experiment that will be carried out. If a partner or group of peers will be involved, each student’s role or responsibilities is clearly designated. Students go on to describe the format their final product will take, such as a poster, an informational pamphlet, a dramatic presentation, or a lab report. A request is made for special materials if they are required. Finally, students themselves decide on a reasonable duration for the work and a due date is set. Once the proposal has been submitted and approved, the work begins! 

Proposal paragraphs are becoming an indispensable first step for many of our students’ larger pieces of work. They have proven beneficial, as they develop higher-order thinking skills and promote executive functioning in several ways.

Benefits of Proposal-Writing

  • Planning: A clearly written proposal serves as a plan that students can refer to as they embark on their course of work. If it is a major project, the elements of the
    proposal can be correlated to dates in the students’ planners, so that they can successfully manage to complete all they have set out to do.
  • Communication: Students learn to coherently articulate what it is they will do, what they will need to do it, and how long it will take them. A formal writing style is
    encouraged, which will undoubtedly serve them well as they continue their studies.
  • Resource Management: Students learn to manage all the resources they need to complete the various tasks involved. These may include poster boards, arts and crafts supplies, computer access, and the most precious of resources: time.
  • Collaboration: When working as partners or in a team, students soon learn how to delegate, how to divide tasks equitably, and how to support each other’s strengths for the benefit of the whole group. It is wonderful for each student to feel like an important and contributing member of the team.
  • Accountability: While the project is underway, students (and teachers) can refer to their proposals to ensure they are staying on track. If one student in a group is not doing his/her share of the work, or if one element is being overlooked, this is brought to attention before the due date is reached.
  • Self-Reflection: A written proposal provides a concrete tool for self-reflection once a project has been completed. At first guided by their teacher, individuals or groups can think about not only what they enjoyed most or were most successful at, but also the areas they found challenging or parts of the work that didn’t turn out as proposed. Honestly and objectively acknowledging areas for growth or focused practice is the first step to real improvement.

21 st Century Learners

Our Upper Elementary program is dedicated to equipping students with the skills they will need to be successful 21st century learners. Proposal paragraphs are just one
way that we can introduce and practice a variety of these skills, in a manner that is practical, relevant, and empowering.

– Ms. Andrea, Upper Elementary West

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