project based learning


For our current PBL unit, students have been learning about electricity and magnetism. For their final project, students used what they know to create their own inventions. I was worried they wouldn’t come up with anything, but I was wrong! They used circuits, buzzers, lights and electromagnets to make all sorts of cool things. Each group made a brochure explaining the science in their invention. We then watched clips from “Shark Tank” and kids came up with their own pitches.

Today, family, friends, the principal and other students visited the “Invention Convention.” I was totally blown away. My kids were confident, enthusiastic and really knew their stuff. Every who came was so positive.

Today was one of those amazing teaching days. (Also, I love PBL!)

anonymous asked:

What is PBL and how is it different than typical 'normal' teaching

Ooh good question! PBL stands for Project Based Learning. The biggest takeaway for me about PBL is that it switches the responsibility of learning from teachers to the students. It’s basically backwards design - design with the end in mind.

I always go into projects (or units) with a driving question, something for the students to work on solving, and a general idea of final product, or what they’ll produce. We start with a project launch, and go into need to knows, where students are supposed to identify a starting point for what they need to learn through the project in order to complete the final product.

They then need to request workshops where I teach them, generally in small groups. So teachers still teach and students still learn. It’s just in a smaller setting.

That’s the biggest difference for me. Student led and student focused, as opposed to teacher focused.

hi friends!! just thought i would stop by and give a Real and Formal introduction post!!

my name is alison and i am about to turn 17. i am a junior in high school. i love math and english. i have been using a bullet journal system for six months.

i attend a project based learning school. i am taking one AP and one honors class (literally the maximum at my school) this year. my school is very rigorous and challenging, and if you have any pbl questions please ask me!!

i have been taking french for three years, and i love it. im currently planning a trip to france after i graduate!! i do my best to write, speak, and communicate only in french a little bit every day.

outside of school i do ballet and i play the ukulele. i love to binge watch the office and parks and rec in my (limited) free time (:

i am so excited to be joining this community!! i would love to chat and make friends with y'all.


Presenting our Fourth Grade Zoo - the final PBL project of the year for my classroom! 

Throughout this project, students completed the following activities:

  1. An entry event involving a simulation of camouflage.
  2. Guided research of five ecosystems: tundra, rainforest, desert, temperate forest, and grassland.
  3. Exposure to various readings, videos, and online games and simulations related to animal adaptations, ecosystems, and natural selection.
  4. A simulation involving different kinds of bird beaks and animal diets.
  5. Construction of life-sized animals for our tie-in to the math standard of conversion of measurement. 
  6. Creation of original sketches of animals with one adaptation for each of the five ecosystems studied. 
  7. With the assistance of the art teacher, creation of wire armatures coated with tin foil, then covering in plaster and painting with water colors.
  8. Formal literacy task on their animal and its adaptations, taking students through the entire writing process (final copies pictured above).
  9. Final sketch of their animal with its adaptations labeled.
  10. Notecards for their presentations and practice public speaking. We presented to family and community members tonight and will have our zoo open to the other students on Tuesday of next week.

Documents I created that you are free to take!

If you would like any more information or a list of additional resources I have gathered throughout the course of the project, I am more than wiling to share!

Project Based Learning...
  • Me: On Monday, we will start our new PBL unit on the California Missions!
  • Student: Ooooh! I already know a ton about missions!
  • Me: Oh really? How did you learn about them?
  • Student: My neighbors are Mormon!
  • Me: ...?
  • Student: So I already know all about how missions go door to door talking about their special book! Are we going to do that for our final project?

Looking for Alaska board game. Appx. 6 hours of work, but it’s done (cards and all)! Can’t wait to use this in my English I class with my freshmen on Monday.
Thank you for an incredible book, @fishingboatproceeds!

Notes: The question cards -
Comprehension - comprehension/analysis/plot questions about the novel
Life - real-world scenarios and thought exercises related to the novel
Truth - FAQ questions about alcohol, drugs, DUIs, and more.
Dare - Creative, often physically engaging activities, such as “Perform an obituary at Alaska’s funeral as the Colonel.”
Happy to send game instructions and more details to anyone upon request!


Finally posting about our electricity project. After a long period (much longer than planned due to multiple snow days) of inquiry-based activities to build up student understanding of circuits, we trashed our classrooms and told the students an intruder had come in over the weekend and we needed to protect ourselves (they played along and were aware enough to not be afraid but bought in to the simulation completely). 

Students were given their entry doc with the criteria and constraints of what they needed to construct - a functioning door alarm prototype. They were given limited materials and a model classroom to work with with a door that opened and closed. When the door opened, the alarm needed to go off and the light needed to turn on. When the door closed, the alarm and light needed to stop.

Students were randomly partnered for this project, had to compare initial designs, decide on a plan, and only had a few days to build. I had about half of my groups produce a functional alarm system, but everyone was able to write a reflection of what worked and what didn’t, as well as explain why.

This project didn’t rely on as much voice and choice as most of our PBL projects, but my teammate received grant money through a university to execute it (and provide data) and we chose to stay together as a team on this. Overall, I’m happy with my students’ level of understanding of these concepts despite this project being conducted over a long winter with lots of interruptions!

To fill the gap between finishing our debate and finals, I had my students create review activities. The only way I directed them was no Kahoot (because otherwise I would have gotten 100 Kahoots). Students went crazy, in a good way.

I have a Power Skills (the class I teach) version of Exploding Kittens. I have multiple board games. I have so many Jeopardy games. Handouts, practice quizzes, Bingo, you name it. My desk has exploded.

But I love this. This is why open-ended assignments are so wonderful. Because kids can be creative and have fun and do what they want.

And I can sit here and geek out about how wonderful my kiddos are.


Facilitating Learning in a Student-Driven Environment (Keys to Project Based Learning Series Part 4)

Living in the Infinite, Not the Finite.

“If you live in the question you are infinite, if you live in the answer, you are finite.”

I really liked that quote. To me, it sums up the differences between Problem Based  and Project Based Learning. Project Based Learning, by definition, begins with the end in mind. The final product, whatever it is, is already known to the learner. What exactly the final project looks like is up to the students and may vary from student to student or group to group, but the end is clear. In “real life” I suppose that there are quite a few situations where this is a valid form of thinking. An architect is designing a house or a store. You have been asked to make a bridge, or build a robot, or  design a 21st century classroom.  The end is always clear.  (Of course there are levels and sublevels and the true definition of a project based unit has sort of melted over the years, but I think the idea of Project Based Learning remains the same: The project is part of the problem and is already pre-defined.) 

I have had difficulty in actually truly defining what constitutes actual projects in Project Based Learning. Of course, we all know that since it is a constructivist model of learning that the student is the discoverer of the learning, instead of the teacher being the all knowing distributor of learning. Kids get to learn for themselves, which I think is the better approach to learning. But when the end is already determined, one wonders how much true learning is already taking place, and how much is the students previous knowledge is actually just completing the assignment. For instance, I can recall science labs that were used to demonstrate a concept that actually could be pretty much figured out without even doing the lab. Chemistry class was the worst at that. The reactions were discussed prior to the lab, and if one merely read the book or paid attention to the teachers notes, one could figure out the results of the lab without even doing it. For instance, if we talked about precipitation reactions and the teacher talked about the sodium sulphate reaction with copper(II) chloride, and then we DID the sodium sulphate with copper(II) chloride in a lab, we knew that we will get a particular colored precipitate whether it worked or not. We were living in the answers in chemistry. We already knew how the answer was going to look.  We already knew how the frog would look before we dissected it, we already knew that the plants would move towards the light after we discussed phototropism. For much of what we did in science labs, we lived in the answer, and I suspect that still is the case. 


Keep reading


A few days ago we read Actual Size by Steve Jenkins. After the read-aloud I had students choose groups (anywhere from 2-6 happened and we rolled with it) and pick three animals, either from the book or that were they were interested in, that they would like to create an “actual size” poster for.

I picked the most reasonable one from their lists (also allowing for a variety - only one snake, one shark, etc.) and had them look up the length and then convert it into five different units (inches, feet, yards and then meters and centimeters), since we’re currently working on measurement in math.

Once they submitted their measurements, I got them paper and let them at it, making sure they measured carefully. Some chose to look up pictures and free-draw and some projected pictures on the Smartboard and zoomed them to the right size before tracing. 

They’re enjoying this so much and are so excited about it. At least half of the groups asked me if they could stay in from recess to work on them! Such a nice activity to complement our project but also to give them some time to relax after state testing each morning this week.

The posters are almost done so I should have some final pictures to show this weekend! I’m so proud of their hard work. 


End of Year Project idea: “Fifty People, One Question: What’s your secret?” ELA style

A montage connecting fictional characters’ secrets [text-to-text] meets your secrets [text-to-self] meets your peers’ secrets [text-to-world]. Group project; rent video cams; different themes/motifs, etc.


“Five Keys to Rigorous Project-Based Learning” by Edutopia


Last week, I posted about my students’ PBL (Project Based Learning) project.  A big part of it that I didn’t include (forgot to take pictures!) was the brochures my students made about their inventions.

This was my first time having students make detailed brochures as part of their final project, and I loved it!  They were able to really show what they know and it wasn't too time consuming.  The brochures also integrated writing and vocabulary into science.  I made tons of copies, and at the presentation, groups offered visitors the brochures.  I am glad that parents and other adults had something tangible to take home from the presentation.


Signs you’re a Project-Based Learning teacher: your classroom is a disaster zone of recyclables on a regular basis.

My room is such a mess today and I don’t even care. It’s a productive mess. My kids who are done are doing giant floor puzzles that are adding to it and these pictures don’t even do the whole thing justice. But they’re talking about simple machines, discussing their designs and readjusting them as they test things, and working together (for the most part - only one minor meltdown today so far). I’ve had a parent, a physical therapist, and the principal walk through and no one has batted an eyelash. It will all be cleaned up before we go home today, but in the meanwhile, learning is happening here.


Tomorrow my class will present their final PBL project. We studied animal habitats and adaptations, and our driving question asked students to explore how animals evolved to become well-adapted to survive in extreme conditions.

We researched and wrote five paragraph essays about individual animals, then students collaborated to create an animal that would not only survive in a given biome, but would thrive and become the ULTIMATE PREDATOR. Many of my students chose to combine their animals’ unique adaptations, but there were a lot of snake-like creatures who could swallow their prey whole.