I have pondered using it.
I have implemented certain strategies of it into my classroom.
But I have yet to take the plunge into the waters of Project Based Learning.
This is the first of three blog posts I will do on my journey into PBL. I split it into three parts because as I got to typing, I realized that there were actually three different posts within my story. The path I took to get here, the details of the project itself, and my reflection. I felt like it was important to include each of those pieces because, chances are, there is some teacher out there pondering the same things about PBL that I was. Each phase of the journey is important. So this section is titled, Learn, Set, Go! in order to explain how I got here in the first place.
I spent a good amount of this school year trying to learn more about PBL and what it can look like in a middle school social studies classroom. Well...as much time as I could between preparing lesson plans for maternity leave (which would start at the end of November), teaching a brand new class for HS students who are considering teaching (read about that class here and here), and trying to prepare for a student teacher starting in January.
I find I have to fit in professional development wherever I can. Which means, social media.
I wanted to learn from the best, and there was no question who that would be. Ginger Lewman, has known for awhile that I've been following her and wanting to learn a little more about PBL. I think she could see my interest growing. I LOVE the concepts behind PBL and what it does for empowering students. I have struggled to figure out just how to implement it. I needed training, but summers are out for me until my kiddos are more self-sufficient. I already go to quite a few PD workshops in the school year. I was struggling to find the time to learn more. (Follow Ginger on Twitter @GingerLewman)
This year, in August, Ginger started doing short little Facebook Live posts about PBL. I tried to watch every single one. I wanted to know more, I wanted to see how something like this could work in my classroom. I learned incredible little tips about grouping students, soft-deadlines, and making students a part in the creation of the rubrics. I used all of these strategies first semester, but not in a true PBL style project. That would come later.
I knew that I would have a student teacher in the spring semester, and that would free up a little time to work on developing something that would be true to PBL, and it might offer me the chance to work with Ginger. If I'm going to do this, I want to do it right. I want to make sure that my students get to see the benefits of PBL in the classroom.
I made a decision. I wrote it down. "I WILL do a PBL style project in May."
I decided on a topic, by taking a recycled project I had done years ago. It was close to PBL (or at least close enough that I didn't have to start completely from scratch), I bought Ginger's book, Lessons for LifePractice Learning, scheduled to work with her via Google Hangouts on my planning period, and had her help make sure I was on the right track and following all the "rules." I really wanted this to be true to PBL. I committed to sharing my story with her, so if she wanted to include it in the future, she could. All of this to set the stage for transitioning my classroom
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The date was set. I was launching the project on May 3rd with my 7th grade classes. Reality TV Goes Back in Time was GOING TO HAPPEN!
This was definitely worth all the time and effort that went into it. The students LOVED it and it helped end the year on a strong note! It wasn't all smooth sailing...I ran into a couple bumps along the way. I'll talk about those bumps and in my next post on the details of the project.