One of the things that stands in the way of many teachers engaging in Project Based Learning is finding out where to start. Not knowing where to begin can paralyze people and prevent them starting and that is a very normal thing. Also, there are so many resources out there, it is easy to be overwhelmed by it all and just stick to what you already know. I wanted to share a little bit of help on where to start when it comes to project based learning that I know has helped me on my journey and has worked with other teachers I have coached.
1. Do not focus on your entire curriculum
One of the biggest mistakes teachers make when exploring PBL is thinking about their entire curriculum and how it can be converted to a PBL approach. Not surprisingly, that be overwhelming and things top before they get started. Start with one lesson. Pick one lesson that you have been thinking about revamping and take another look at through the lens of project based learning.
2. Identify what students are supposed to know by the end of this lesson
It is important to have a clear idea of what you expect students to know at the end of the lesson. These clear objectives will be needed by the students as they explore the ideas and create something to demonstrate understanding.
3. Ask yourself this question, "Is there something students could create that would demonstrate understanding of this material?"
Not every lesson is perfect and easy to convert to PBL. In ELA, it was easy to have students focus on themes, symbols, characterization, etc when creating projects for a novel or short story. Doing it for a grammar unit, for me, would have been a tough place to start. Everyone knows their strengths as a teacher and should focus on those when starting something new like PBL.
4. Consider how you will assess the projects
If you are required to grade all of the work done in your class, consider using a rubric for PBL. It is a great way to provide feedback and let students see where they can grow and what specific expectations they are expected to meet for each level.
If you are not required, just let the kids have a go at the project and see the things that students create. Sometimes, you can get a better idea of how to assess in the future by taking a non-assessment approach for the first project.
5. Let the students know you are trying something new
I always let students know when I was trying something new in class and let them know I would like their opinions when it was done. I also told them I might pivot quickly if the lesson is not working. The kids respected the fact that I was willing to try something new and liked that they would get to try it out. Sometimes kids like to be guinea pigs for lessons. Some of the best feedback on lessons has come from students over the years.
My last bit of advice on getting started with project based learning is to be ok with failure. Exploring PBL in the classroom is really no different than implementing any other new lesson into the classroom. Sometimes you hit a home run right away and other times, you strike out. Either way, you get back in the box and try again.
If you have any questions about Project Based Learning, feel free to reach out and I will see how I can help.
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