Tuesday, December 10, 2013

4 Other Essential Elements of Project Based Learning

Today I met with a great group of teachers embarking on implementing project based learning together. I shared this seminal article with them and we discussed their ideas. But AFTER I left their meeting, what I REALLY wanted to say hit me.

As you plan your projects, consider at least one element of project design that will get (and keep) kids interested BEYOND the 8 essentials . . .

1. Serve others in need with your project.
  • Example: Students build a grocery store via donations to fuel the local food bank. In the process, they learn about pricing, inventory control, spreadsheets, and supply and demand.
  • High school students create books about science concepts for elementary school students from poverty with no books in their homes. Each child gets a book.
2. Serve other students by teaching them something they need to know.
  • Example: Everyone is reading this novel in English, but my team is responsible for teaching everyone about theme in this work of literature. If we do a bad job, no one will learn about theme. We’ll provide a tutorial, examples, and activities to teach everyone else in our class what theme is and how it works in this novel. Other classes who are also reading the book can learn from our work because it will be published online.
  • Secondary students teach elementary students ___ through screencasts. (Fractions? Narrative Structure? Could be anything---maybe the winning team (see #3) gets to travel to meet the elementary school learners at the end of the project.)
3. Be a competitor.
  • Each member of my class is on a team, and each of our teams are working on a project. The winning team gets to . . . (go visit another school with our cooperative counterparts as ambassadors, eat dinner at a restaurant with the teacher to celebrate, etc.)
4. Publish online (and get someone to see it).
  • Create a blog on which to publish your classes digital endeavors, post pictures of paper masterpieces, etc. Then get friends, family, (whatever it takes) to comment on them from time to time. It’s very motivating for your work to be seen outside your school and sometimes even outside your country. Find a cooperating teacher and get her students to comment on your students’ work, then return the favor.
  • Two of my favorite local teachers have created classroom Instagram accounts where their students’ work is published. Students, parents, teachers, etc. can favorite students’ work online. Teachers can use the accounts to provide directions for activities (like foldables). Thanks for the idea Brooke Lowery and Bridget Costello!

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