Have you been hearing much about Project Based Learning? I am very new to the concept, but I love it. Please know that I am not an expert by any means, but I wanted to share a bit about my experiences with you.
To me, project based learning is all about getting students excited about learning content you have to teach anyway. It involves coming up with a problem that students will want to take ownership in solving. I've heard some say, "How is this any different than teaching with thematic units?" I can see how it could seem like a thematic unit because it ties multiple concepts across content areas into one problem. However, it is not tied to a random topic that we have cute clip art for. It is about a problem that students with enjoy discovering how to solve.
Anyway, when you do a PBL (project based learning) in your classroom, the key component is the entry event. It is the thing that gets students excited about diving into the unit of study. The first one I did was about farm animals. We needed to cover non-fiction in reading and writing workshop, and needed to talk about animals for science. So, I came up with this Voki for my entry event:
After that, my class had to come up with how we were going to solve the problem. We brainstormed things on a farm, talked about where we would find information, and ultimately came up with our driving question; What would Buster need to do to take care of a farm?
My students each chose different animals, tools or plants they wanted to study for the farm. They found information in books or on videos I found on the internet. The structure of creating the product was much like a research project I posted about last year.
I wish I had taken pictures of the books they created, but I sent them home after our Open House without even thinking about it.
Another key part to a PBL is the audience. A typical research project may be a self-selected topic by a student, but it doesn't always have an entry event and an audience. Turns out, Open House was the perfect timing for our PBL, and the parents ended up being the audience.
That was my first shot at a PBL. We are currently doing another one centered around zoo animals. The things we needed to study in science were already timed with our zoo field trip. To turn it into a PBL, we just added an entry event, a driving question, lots of student direction, and an audience. I'll let you know more about that in a couple of weeks when it's over.
In the mean time, if you are intrigued or interested in the idea of Project Based Learning, check out this site that my principal shared with us. It has lots of great ideas and videos for all grade levels. Let me know if you have had any experience with PBLs or plan to try one of your own!
PS- I'm a five star blogger! Check out this post by Charity Preston of The Organized Classroom Blog to see if you are, too!