Project Based Learning is no longer just a buzzword but a growing trend and designed instructional approach. So often I see teachers struggle to incorporate projects. They have many legitimate concerns that hinder their ability to fit in activities.
Recently, I modified the fifth grade science unit on terrestrial biomes completely through project based learning. The student creations are not to assess learning, but to actually teach the unit content; putting the students in the driver's seat of of learning. The teacher now facilitates learning, through clear expectations, differentiated support, and purposeful mini-lessons.
Why I Changed it to PBL?:
There is specific science content that the students need to learn. As I reviewed slides used by previous teachers to lecture the content I realized that the same information was widely accessible through nonfiction resources. Our library has great online databases and books for students to use and access. I provided specific expectations for students to research all the information. In my opinion, they are capable of learning about a biomes climate from a book instead of my slideshow. Secondly, they didn’t need to learn about the animals and plants in my slideshow, but any animal and plant they found interesting.
The students have a specific list of content they need to find for each biome. They do all the research on their own. I check in with each group throughout the class to support their needs. Additionally, I approve each biome before they move on to the next.
The project piece to the unit is to create fun documentaries as if they are in each biome. They need to highlight all the key facts in the video. Each biome will be graded on the video, so all facts must be included.
Most of the class period the students are actively engaged in their own work. They are researching, collecting information, writing scripts, planning documentaries, and filming. There is constant conversation and collaboration from the teams to work through each biome.
Throughout the unit I have meaningful and important mini lessons. My mini-lessons focused on important concepts for students to understand:
Facilitating a unit in this model takes time to become comfortable. I already know specific checkpoints I need to provide more guidance, and also less guidance. I want to make sure the students have the freedom to be creative, but also learn the important content.