Friday, February 10, 2012

The Project Based Classroom

Our class engages in projects regularly.  What does that look like?

Projects start with initial planning.  Educators weave standards into a project outline.  For example, students are now working on the Immigration/Family History Museum Project.  The general standards woven into the project include the following:
  • reading and writing informational text.
  • tech research skills.
  • presentation skills.
  • standards related to US regions, culture, and immigration.
The project also includes a passion-based, choice component in that students are choosing the country(s) they are focused on, the stories they want to tell and the specific topics they will feature.  We have guided them with a project packet, essential questions, links and resources.

Project time generally starts with a meeting.  We discuss the outline and students' needs.  We create edit lists and needs' lists.  Then students spread out around the classroom with laptops, books, paper/pencil and other materials to research and write.  Teachers mentor and guide as they conduct meetings with individual students, and monitor the whole group.

Throughout the project, we stop to revise, navigate and respond.  We also stop when it's time for new learning.  For example, this morning I'll introduce many "bonus" options for the project including Wordle, pamphlet creation, Inspiration family trees, and puzzle options as many students have completed the basic project criteria.  We'll stop again next week to discuss exhibit design as students embark on creating their trifold exhibit poster.  Finally, we'll stop again to discuss project presentation the day before the Museum Open House giving students a chance to practice their "headline" introductions.

Project Based Learning is invigorating, challenging, personal and collaborative as the classroom community of learners investigate, discover, create and present information to one another and the chosen presentation audience.  Projects model the kind of autonomy, mastery and purposeful work students will do in the years to come as high school/college students and professionals.  Project based learning is a problem-based, step-by-step activity that leads the learner forward in motivating, engaging ways.  

Is this what project based learning looks like in your classroom?  What components do you find essential to successful implementation?  How do you grow students' skills as you move from one project to the next?  Your thoughts and ideas will serve to develop our work as we move forward with project based learning and our next endeavor: World Biomes.