20% Time Guidebook


Image borrowed from Bex Ross via creative commons

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go…”

- Dr. Seuss

Mr. Kane

Social Studies

Moultonborough Academy

Throughout the duration of this course, you will embark on a journey of discovery.  You will be given the opportunity to develop and carry out your own project related to the subject area.  Projects may be based on any topic relevant to the class that you are in, and can include almost any sort of activity.  Ultimately, you will have the freedom to control an element of the course curriculum and shape it into something that you find personally interesting and fulfilling.  Because the responsibility for this activity is in your hands, you will truly have the opportunity to put your genius to work and develop an impressive project.

The idea of giving students, or workers for that matter, time to produce something personally meaningful to them did not originate in this classroom.  Since 1948, 3M, a popular office supply company, has allowed their highly skilled employees to spend 15% of their time at work developing relevant products of their choosing.[1]  Twice during the course of each year, they select a number of interesting, well-developed projects and give them huge grants, or free money, to encourage their progress.[2]  Post-It notes, one of 3M’s most well known products, were developed during 15% Time.[3]  Google famously integrated the idea into their company policies as 20% Time.  By giving their software engineers one day each week to work on a project of interest to them, Google reaped impressive rewards with the development of Gmail, one of their most popular products.[4]  Companies such as 3M and Google have provided us with a useful model for innovation which this project replicates in the classroom.

The responsibility that you will be given for developing this project will require a great deal of self-management.  In order to help you with that, a series of steps along the way will ensure that you remain on track toward completing the goal that you set at the beginning of the course.  These steps will include a proposal process, an annotated bibliography, a project outline, a formal check-in, self-reflection, and practice presentations.  These steps will lead you toward your objective and prepare you to present your masterpiece in a museum showcase for other students and teachers.

On the following pages, you will find all of the materials necessary to carry out the project.  Review the materials thoroughly and refer back to them often as you begin to develop your project.

Twenty-Percent Time “Cheat Sheet”

While in this class you will be encouraged to explore a topic of interest to you within the subject and develop an innovative project throughout the duration of the semester.  Twenty percent of your time will be spent working on this project.  Specifically, every Friday will be dedicated to your work.  You are encouraged to think outside the box and develop something that is truly interesting and meaningful to you.

This project will involve several steps designed to help you track your progress, reflect on what you are learning, and share your expertise with others.  The steps are as follows:

Twenty-percent time is all about you.  Your efforts will determine the value of the time and whether or not you enjoy the experience.  Projects are expected to be rigorous and related to the course that you are taking.  Use this opportunity to challenge yourself, pursue your interests, and learn something that you will never forget.  

This project is a course competency and will be weighted as follows:

Proposal 5%

Annotated Bibliography 20%

Check-in 20%

Self-reflection 5%

Final Product 50%

See the rubric on the following two pages to learn how your final product will be graded.




☐ 5 (100%) -Product is extremely clever, completely original, and inventive.

☐ 4 (90%) -Product is very clever, original, and inventive.

☐ 3 (75%) -Product is clever, original, and inventive.

☐ 2 (50%) -Product is somewhat clever, original, or inventive.

☐ 1 (0%) -Product needs improvement.


☐ 5 (100%) -Product is extremely academically, intellectually, and personally challenging.

☐ 4 (90%) -Product is very academically, intellectually, and personally challenging.

☐ 3 (75%) -Product is somewhat academically, intellectually, and personally challenging.

☐ 2 (50%)-Product is academically, intellectually, or personally challenging.

☐ 1 (0%) -Product needs improvement.


☐ 5 (100%) -Product shows mastery of course specific content knowledge.

☐ 4 (90%) -Product shows strong understanding of course specific content knowledge.

☐ 3 (75%) -Product shows adequate understanding of course specific content knowledge.

☐ 2 (50%) -Product shows developing understanding of course specific content knowledge.

☐ 1 (0%) -Product needs improvement.


☐ 5 (100%) -Skills developed throughout the project are widely applicable in the real world.

☐ 4 (90%) -Skills developed throughout the project are very applicable in the real world.

☐ 3 (75%) -Skills developed throughout the project are somewhat applicable in the real world.

☐ 2 (50%) -Skills developed throughout the project are only partially applicable in the real world.

☐ 1 (0%) -Product needs improvement.


☐ 5 (100%) -Presentation is extremely clear, informative, and interactive.

☐ 4 (90%) -Presentation is very clear, informative, and interactive.

☐ 3 (75%) -Presentation is somewhat clear, informative, and interactive.

☐ 2 (50%) -Presentation is clear, informative, or interactive.

☐ 1 (0%) -Presentation needs improvement.

Self Management

*Please note that this category will be measured throughout the project, not just at the end.

☐ 5 (100%) -Time could not have been used better during any stage of the project.

☐ 4 (90%) -Time was used well with only minor exceptions.

☐ 3 (75%) -Time was used well with only a few exceptions.

☐ 2 (50%) -Time could have been used better throughout the project.

☐ 1 (0%) -Time management needs substantial improvement.

All categories are equally weighted.

Overall Score: __________

Project Proposal Guide


Your proposal should be typed and approximately one page in length.  In it, you will explain the topic that you wish to research and why you want to spend 20% of your time in this course studying it.  Develop a research question and include it in your proposal.  What do you ultimately want to know about this topic?  Additionally, you will provide a detailed explanation of the project that you want to carry out.  Consider what you will ultimately produce, as the rubric for this project considers your knowledge and the product you created to be equally important.

While considering possibilities, keep in mind that you will have approximately fourteen Fridays to carry out your project.  The expectation is that you will spend 100% of the time during each Friday actively engaged in work related to your project.  When the rigor of your project is assessed, it will be graded in relation to the time that you were provided with.  In other words, you should be considering a challenging, large scale, long-term project possibly with multiple components.  Furthermore, the expectation of originality means that you should think outside the box.  Absolutely no essays, posters, or powerpoints should be included as a major part of your project.

Exemplary past topics and projects have included:

Early U.S. History


Sample Research Topics



Early U.S. History

Sample Project Ideas

You may pick a topic or a project from this list, but you absolutely do not have to.  It exists as a guide to show you some possibilities.  Be as creative as you can!  The sky's the limit with 20% Time, so if there is something that you are interested in or want to know more about, propose it!  Just remember to stay outside of the box!  No essays, posters, or powerpoint presentations!

Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.

Annotated Bibliography


An annotated bibliography is one where the source is stated, summarized, and connected to the project that you are working on.  The citation absolutely must be provided in MLA format.  For the purpose of 20% Time, you will develop an annotated bibliography in three stages.  Each stage will involve completing an additional set of entries.  You should divide the number of sources required by three weeks and plan to complete that number during each stage.

Total references:

Freshmen: 5

Sophomores: 6

Juniors: 7

Seniors: 8

The following is an example of an entry in an annotated bibliography in MLA format:

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.

Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic. In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun.

Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one's own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students' own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott's style both engaging and enjoyable.[5]

Please note that your actual bibliography should be double spaced.

Use the OWL at Purdue University as a resource for MLA style bibliographies:


You can also use www.easybib.com to generate your citations.

All research is expected to be complete by the end of the annotated bibliography process.

Additional Tasks


A thesis is the heart and soul of a project.  It is the position that you have decided to take on an issue after careful research.  Using the “Thesis Statement” organizer provided to you in this guide, you will state your thesis and justify it with at least five strong pieces of evidence.[6]


Approximately halfway through the project there will be a formal check-in.  When this takes place, you will work with a partner to present your progress thus far and film it.  The recordings will be placed on the class page on Schoology, where other peers from your class will comment and give you honest feedback on your progress.  The formal check-in grade will be recorded in the gradebook so that you receive credit according to the work that you have done up to that point.


After receiving feedback from the instructor and your peers during the Check-In, you will write a self assessment on Schoology where you honestly and thoroughly examine your work habits and progress thus far.  After identifying your strengths and weaknesses, you will outline a plan of action that you plan to take to address any deficiencies.  Your plan of action should address some of the more valuable feedback that you have received.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

- Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life


Week #1

During this week you will learn about the project and begin your initial research.

Week #2

During this week you will develop a research proposal.

Week #3

During this week you will complete the first set of citations for your annotated bibliography.

Week #4

During this week you will complete the second set of citations for your annotated bibliography.

Week #5

During this week you will complete the third set of citations for your annotated bibliography.

Week #6

During this week you will begin work on your project and develop a thesis and outline.

Week #7

During this week you will continue work on your project.

Week #8

During this week there will be a formal check-in.

Week #9

During this week you will continue work on your project.

Week #10

During this week you will continue work on your project.

Week #11

During this week you will continue work on your project.

Week #12

During this week you will continue work on your project.

Week #13

During this week you will practice your presentation in preparation for the museum showcase.

Week #14

During this week you will present your work in a museum showcase.

Works Cited

"Annotated Bibliography Samples." Purdue OWL. Accessed January 26, 2015.


Mediratta, Bharat. "The Google Way: Give Engineers Room." The New York Times. October

20, 2007. Accessed January 26, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/jobs/21pre.html?_r=0.

"Thesis Organizer." Chicago Metro History Education Center. Accessed January 26, 2015.


"Time to Think." 3M. Accessed January 26, 2015.


[1] “Time to Think,” 3M, accessed January 23, 2015, http://solutions.3m.com/innovation/en_US/stories/time-to-think

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The Google Way: Give Engineers Room,” New York Times, accessed January 23, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/21/jobs/21pre.html?_r=0

[5] “Annotated Bibliography Samples,” Purdue OWL, accessed January 23rd, 2015, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/03/

[6] “Thesis Organizer,” Chicago Metro History Education Center, accessed January 23, 2015, http://www.chicagohistoryfair.org/images/stories/pdfs/thesis_graphic_organizer.pdf